Tuesday, July 11, 2000

The Convergence Corridor

 It took an hour to get to the airport, but that wasn't because of traffic. Sure, Denver is becoming reputed for heavy traffic problems, but that's not why it's tough to get to the airport. It's because it's so far out of town.

This may be an indication of city planners recognizing Denver's growth potential, and planning in advance to accommodate future growth. Or, maybe they just got a deal on the land.

Either way, Denver is rapidly expanding. A good part of its growth can be attributed to the Internet industry. Things really began taking off about four years ago, and over the last year – nay, even the last six months – the "cyber scene" in this sport-adventure-nature-loving town has begun to take on new significance.

Aiding and fostering this growth are groups like Women in Technology, the Colorado Internet Kieretsu, the Rocky Mountain Internet Users Group and NetGoddess. Although each is different from the other in character and aims, they are similar in their commitment to advancing the Internet industry community in the Denver area. In fact, Colorado doesn't only have a city (or two) to point to for its high-tech culture, it has an entire corridor. From Boulder to Colorado Springs, Lafayette to Louisville, Lakewood to Highlands Ranch, and on to Denver, this corridor extends up and down I25. Trip.com is out in an area called the Denver Technology Center, MShow is in Highlands Ranch and Qubit is in Lakeland. To visit these three companies, I needed most of the day and a driver to get me around. Not the easiest task if you're used to walking to the curb, raising your arm and having three yellow cabs dart towards you – or finding one of the nearest forms of public transportation and take that in a pinch.

The name itself, such a defining matter in most towns’ identities in this Internet area, has a few versions and a few people who claim to own it. The Convergence Corridor name has been initially attributed to Suzanne Lainson, who writes and has a sports marketing business. (http://www.denverpost.com/business/raabe1205.htm). Whether Mile-High Tech or Convergence Corridor, this area is charging ahead with its affiliation with growth and prosperity.

And despite the notorious traffic challenges, there seems to be a decent amount of fluidity between cities for cultural and business exchanges.

Trip.com CEO Mark Mastrini attributes this area's success to the infrastructure, high education and the high quality of life. "Denver," cites Mastrini, "is the hidden city of technology … it's not a big-name city, but it will be." He also credits California for part of Denver's growth. When California experienced its hiccup in the dot-coms world, and company's started crumbling after the market crash, a lot of talented people went to Denver for its lucrative and plentiful jobs. There's a consolidation of talent. If your company has survivability, the better talent you can get. Plus, as he said, right off I70, the biggest playground of America is waiting for you with flatland and mountain activities.

When recruiting people, dot-com companies have to realize that people in Denver leave at reasonable hours and go up to the mountains for the weekend. Understanding this characteristic of Colorado-ites, Bob Ogden, Chairman and CEO of MShow, set up an office in Austin, TX, where the culture is a tad more live, eat, breathe code (amidst the Live Music Capital of the World and all those glorious hills and lakes). He put most of his technical programmers in Austin. The quality of life in Denver is a strong factor that lures and keeps visitors and prospective employees.

Here are a few more interesting stats on Colorado and it's tech-fullness:
* Colorado also has the largest number of tech workers per capita among the states, with 145,700 in 1998, or about 84 of every 1,000 people working in the industry.

*Colorado ranks seventh for employment in computers and office equipment manufacturing, eighth in software services employment and 11th in semiconductor manufacturing jobs.

* Those workers are also getting paid an average of $60,418, or 88 percent more than other private sector workers, who make an average of $32,210.
(From: Tech ranks high in Rockies, by Jennifer Beauprez. Denver Post. http://www.denverpost.com/business/biz0518.htm)

"Boulder County has a higher concentration of software workers than anywhere in the country, an industry trade group says."
(From: Daily Camera, June 7, 2000)