Denver: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Following record economic and population growth in the 1950s, Denver weathered reversals tied to the fluctuating petroleum market in the 1970s and 1980s. By the late 1980s the city had taken measures toward establishing a diversified economic base. Major companies in the Denver metropolitan area employ workers in a range of fields such as air transportation, telecommunications, aerospace, and manufacturing. The city is also a major energy research center and a regional headquarters for government agencies.

The financial and commercial capital of the Rocky Mountain region, Denver's downtown banking district—dubbed the "Wall Street of the Rockies"—consists of major national and international institutions. The city is the transportation hub for a large portion of the western United States; consumer and industrial goods are transported by air, rail, and truck through Denver to more than 30 million people annually. Denver is a Foreign Trade Zone, providing advantages to companies involved in international trade. To its advantage, the city's geographic position and location within the Mountain Time Zone make it the largest city in the United States to offer one-bounce satellite uplinks with real-time connections to 6 of 7 continents in one day.

Denver's central location—it is 346 miles west of the exact geographic center of the country—places it in an advantageous position for future economic development and growth. Analysts predict that the U.S. population is shifting south and west, with future concentration expected in the area from California to Utah and to the Gulf coast in Texas. Denver is at the center of this region; projections indicate that the city will become a high-technology research, development, and manufacturing hub for the entire Southwest.

Items and goods produced: computer storage and peripherals, beverages, mining and farming machinery, rubber goods, fabricated metals, chemicals and allied stone and clay products, western clothing, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, feed, flour, luggage

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

The Mayor's Office of Economic Development & International Trade (MOED/IT) works to retain and create quality jobs, assists organizations in expansion or relocation, and provides a multitude of business development services. It promotes the city as a business location particularly for foreign companies and promotes Denver companies entering international markets. MOED/IT assists with financing, economic incentives, regulatory requirement assistance, and other services as needed. MOED/IT also administers the Denver Urban Enterprise Zone, which assists business with state tax credits for job creation. Together with the Colorado International Trade office, MOED/IT supports the Colorado/Denver Representative Office in London.

State programs

A variety of state and federal programs are available to assist business in relocating and expanding in Denver. Enterprise Zone Tax Credits and Manufacturing Revenue Bonds are among them. The State of Colorado's Business Retention and Expansion program helps smooth the path for area businesses by removing local or statewide barriers.

Job training programs

The Mayor's Office of Workforce Development offers the Colorado FIRST program which connects employment, job readiness, education, and training services into a network of resources at the local and state level. This system links Colorado's employers to a variety of qualified applicants and provides job-seekers with access to employment and training opportunities at six workforce training centers throughout the city as well as additional resources across the country. The menu of core services includes: career counseling and assessment, employer and job-seeker access to automated job postings, information on job trends, assistance in filing Unemployment Insurance claims, and help in finding federal, state, and city dollars to cover some or all of the costs of training opportunities.

Development Projects

The $4.3 billion Denver International Airport is one of the largest airports in the world; it is known for its aesthetics, aviation safety, customer satisfaction and passenger convenience and is the fifth busiest airport in America. The airport continues to spur significant hotel development nearby. The city has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on Denver's downtown, and has plans for future expansion of several museums, theaters, hotels, and government buildings as well as transportation facilities and parks. Invesco Field at Mile High, a $364 million, 76,000-seat stadium replaced Mile High Stadium as the home of the Denver Broncos in 2001; and in 2004 an expansion of the Denver Convention Center was unveiled.

Economic Development Information: Mayor's Office of Economic Development and International Trade, 201 W. Colfax, Dep 208, Denver, CO 80202; John Huggins, Director; telephone (720)913-1999; email Denver One Stop Career Center, 1391 N. Speer Blvd., Denver, CO 80204; telephone (720)865-5700; email

Commercial Shipping

Denver is the commercial transportation center for an eight-state area, providing a hub for two major rail freight companies, more than 160 motor freight carriers, and a number of air cargo services. With negotiated motor freight rates and the city's designation as a Free Trade Zone, Denver has created a competitive marketplace for the import and export of goods.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Employers in Denver choose from a highly educated labor pool. The city ranks second in the nation for the number of residents with bachelors degrees and 64 percent of residents age 24 and older have attended college. Local analysts predict a healthy economy, based on Denver's quality labor force, affordable cost of living, high quality of life, and low commercial lease rates. With a diverse employment base across many sectors, Denver is in a prime position for growth well into the twenty-first century.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Denver metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of non-agricultural labor force: 1,167,600

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 86,200

manufacturing: 72,100

trade, transportation and utilities: 233,000

information: 51,500

financial activities: 98,500

professional services: 183,400

educational and health services: 116,500

leisure and hospitality: 118,100

other services: 44,700

government: 163,600

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $16.89

Unemployment rate: 5.6% (January 2005)

Denver: Economy

Largest private employers Number of employees
Qwest Communications 13,200
HealthONE 8,600
King Soopers, Inc. (grocery stores) 7,800
United Airlines 6,600
Lockheed Martin (aerospace research/production) 7,700
Centura Health 6,100

Cost of Living

The costs for housing and health care in Denver are somewhat above the national average, while the cost of utilities is substantially below the national average.

The following is a summary of data regarding key cost of living factors for the Denver area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $311,194

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 104.8 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: 4.63%

State sales tax rate: 2.9%

Local income tax rate: (Occupational tax) $5.75 per month per employee for all workers who receive income greater than $500 a month

Local sales tax rate: ranges from 3.6% to 8.45% throughout the metro area

Property tax rate: In Colorado, the tax assessor first determines the actual value of a property, then applies the residential rate to get the assessed value. In 2004 the residential rate was 7.96%.

Economic Information: Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, 1445 Market Street, Denver, CO 80202; telephone (303)620-8092; fax (303)534-3200