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What impact are newcomers having on Colorado?

Our Colorado: Population increase boon to economy
Posted at 3:16 PM, May 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-04 00:36:34-04

Editor's Note: 'Our Colorado' stories help natives and newcomers navigate the challenges related to our rapidly growing state, including real estate and development, homelessness, transportation and more. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at OurCO@TheDenverChannel.com. See more 'Our Colorado' stories here.

DENVER — First, we know what people who have been in Colorado a while are saying. We're listening. We get it.

All these new people mean traffic is getting out of control. Affordable homes are hard to find. And don't even start on the impacts to our natural areas. We have covered all that. 

But we want to give newcomers their turn to talk about the positive ways they're changing our Colorado.

In a newly cool corner of Stapleton, world-renowned Chef Luke Bergman is cooking up something new at his restaurant Concourse Restaurant Moderne.

"I came here three years ago for the opportunity just to open up a restaurant," said Bergman, whose love to the state goes way back. "My mom brought us out here you know pretty much every winter to go snowboarding."

He left New York City to move here and raise a family, putting his big-city expertise to work.

"I'm kind of like a big fish in a medium-sized pond," he joked. "We're bringing an experience that maybe Denver didn't have before."

Whether you like it or not, the reality us more transplants like Chef Luke are bringing their talents to Colorado. Last year, nearly 50,000 people moved to Colorado.

"We are the 8th least native state in the country," said Stephanie Copeland, the executive director at the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), who pointed out that only 43 percent of people living in the state are natives.

Transplants come here not just for the natural beauty, but for jobs... and we need them.

"Just in the tech sector, we have around 6,000 unfilled high-paying senior tech jobs that are going unfilled," said Copeland. "We need people. "

So, what about complaints that transplants strain infrastructure and resources?

Copeland said the numbers show with the increase in migration, Colorado has seen a proportional increase in sales and property taxes, which help pay for roads, education and healthcare.

Also, growth attracts new businesses. CTRL Collective just opened its first co-working space outside of Los Angeles in Downtown Denver, attracted by the tech boom.

"Normally, all these companies that are more coastal are coming to the middle of America, and have all these beautiful people coming to collaborate and succeed," said Mattison McGee, a community leader with CTRL Collective. "I think Denver is really becoming a true melting pot for all industries."

It's clear that gentrification is controversial, but newcomer Jonathan Brown moved to Colorado from Oklahoma to find work, and looking around the RINO district, he wishes his hometown had the same kind of development.

"Coming from where it doesn't have this development to where it does is definitely a positive change," said Brown.

If you think about it, Colorado has always been a state of transplants. Full disclosure, this reporter has been in Colorado for more than a decade.

But when I first moved here to work at Denver7, I had never really heard of snow tires or fourteeners and didn't own ski pants or snowshoes. But I did meet incredible people who patiently taught me what Colorado is all about. And I went from newcomer to wanna-be native.

And I'm not alone.

"Sure there's a lot of newcomers now," said Brown. "But they're going to become old, old Coloradans by a certain point. I hope I do."

Maybe one day, all these newcomers will be complaining about growth and change in their colorado, but remembering the natives who showed true Colorado spirit embracing them along the way.