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I am often asked “what the state government in Colorado should do to help promote entrepreneurship and innovation.” My answer is consistent – “education, education, education.” I went to school at MIT and saw first hand how one of the best “communities of higher education” in the world (Cambridge / Boston) directly impacted Massachusetts activity around entrepreneurship and innovation. While I’ve gotten stuck in the “public university / government / private university” discussion loop many times around this, I always suggest that we “take the discussion up a level” since the core question is “how can state government help?”
Today, Roger Fillion of the Rocky Mountain News wrote a damning article summarizing the new Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation which showed Colorado falling to #9 from #3 over the past five years in “adapting to the new economy.” When this study was done in 1999 and 2002, Colorado was #3. Colorado is now #9 (the top five spots are Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington and California.)
I haven’t studied this report, but I think Roger nails it in his article. The key quote is from Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation: “Other states have made major investments in expanding higher education, particularly research centers related to their state economies and specialties. My sense is that Colorado didn’t do that as much in the last decade.”
There are other issues, like the crash in the telecom industry, that impacted Colorado. But – fundamentally – the issue seems to come back to higher education.
There is some good news – Colorado continues to rank in the top three in several categories including education level of the work force, companies selling stock to the public for the first time, high-tech jobs, and patents. Plus, I believe the quality of life in Colorado is #1 in the country – notwithstanding yet another snow storm that we are having today.
Atkinson ends with the following: “It has such a great quality of life, and it’s a wonderful place to live. It’s this mecca for college-educated workers. And it has a lot of high-tech firms. [But it has] failed to combine these with a policy that spurs innovation – one, for example, that boosts the role of colleges and universities in promoting innovation and growth.”
Governor Ritter – you have a fresh shot at it. Let’s reverse the slide that your predecessor helped create.