Romer: Economic recovery impossible without robust Colorado technology sector
We closed the door on a rather turbulent 2020, and 2021 marks a fresh opportunity for Colorado and the country to focus on rebuilding our livelihoods and economy. While we all hoped to be further along in our fight to end the pandemic, new government leadership coupled with vaccine distribution efforts provide our state with an opportunity to refocus on economic recovery. But in order to do so, a recognition of the value of technology and technology companies is imperative.
COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, with many experts warning that the worst is yet to come. And even with renewed hope that the end is near, our road to recovery will be long and hard-fought.
Families and businesses are likely to continue struggling to make ends meet, and our economy faces a worrisome contraction and continued challenges as we barrel through a hamstrung tourism season. Now, more than ever, political leaders must foster an economic and regulatory climate that makes way for innovation and growth.
Technology has remained a bright spot during the pandemic’s gloom. And one way that lawmakers can ensure our businesses and communities experience a successful and long-lasting recovery is by supporting the technological infrastructure — and the companies that create and maintain it — that continues to keep our economy adaptive and alive.
COVID-19 decimated much in-person commerce. Non-essential retail stores and restaurants were forced to operate with limited capacity to help curb the spread of the virus. And it is no secret the toll this has taken on our economy and our business community, especially up and down Main Streets across our state and in our core retail areas in Eagle County.
However, digital tools allowed businesses to adapt, affording them the opportunity to stay engaged with customers, quickly communicate changes in hours and safety measures, and launch, expand, and sustain online marketplaces. This helped save countless businesses from closing down altogether.
Beyond this critical lifeline provided during COVID-19, the technology sector is transforming our economy —for the better. Right now, Colorado is home to more than 11,000 tech companies, and it is estimated that a new one launches every 72 hours.
Attracting more technology companies and making the sector more robust is only benefiting us, helping to diversify our economy over the last decade and preparing us to sustain significant economic turmoil. Now worth nearly $50 billion and representing 14.5 percent of the state’s economy, technology has transformed our state into a true economic juggernaut.
Technology has enabled connectivity and growth in the resort region too, where access to broadband allows local businesses and communities to flourish. Continued investment across the state is absolutely necessary to a sustained economic recovery, in all parts of Colorado.
Despite representing a sizeable portion of our state’s economy, employing hundreds of thousands of Coloradans, and contributing millions of dollars in tax revenue, the technology sector remains in the crosshairs of legal and policy challenges. As misguided anti-technology rhetoric sweeps the country, Colorado’s political leadership must employ a more measured approach to tech policymaking that recognizes the contributions of this critical industry.
More than ever, we need our local and Congressional representatives to champion the needs of small businesses. Now is the time for our leaders to support the technology we rely on to keep our doors open, our lights on, and food on our tables. As Colorado prepares for a new year and the long road ahead to recovery, we hope our lawmakers embrace technology as a valued partner in helping businesses to thrive in the decades to come.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at www.vailvalleypartnership.com.