Denver’s economic development future rests on its ability to educate, train, attract and retain talent. For the first time in 20 years, more people are leaving the Denver Metro area than moving here. This is due in part to employment challenges. However, this is also due to our safety and housing affordability challenges. Leslie’s economic development platform centers on creating a safe, strong and vibrant Downtown Denver; making city government more efficient through accountability; small business advocacy and equity; and making Denver a Global Gateway City.
Leslie was endorsed by the Colorado Chamber of Commerce in 2018 and 2020 for her commitment to creating an economically vital and vibrant state. She also recently received the Iron Skillet award from the Colorado Restaurant Association for securing funding that helped restaurants stay in business during the pandemic. Leslie understands business and will ensure the Denver economy will not only survive but thrive.
Within her first 100 days, Leslie will meet with the City’s largest employers and fastest growing companies to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing their businesses. She will also partner with the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, higher ed, and upskilling organizations to ensure we are training and educating the next workforce to meet employer and employee needs.
Denver is more than just a city -- it’s a collection of neighborhoods. Each neighborhood is unique, with its own special character and attractions. For our neighborhoods and city to thrive, we need comprehensive planning and development processes that are accessible, efficient, and transparent.
Under Leslie’s leadership, Denver will embark upon an Urban Renaissance, a Denver where innovation and affordability thrive. We will redefine what an exceptional American city can truly be, by embracing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging to craft a new social space, where a vibrant mix of residential housing, commerce, and leisure co-exist.
Leslie sees the future of Denver’s development as one that incorporates both smart planning and community buy in. Our city does not have room to grow in a haphazard manner. Changes to our city must ensure we protect parks & open space, eliminate food deserts, support our schools, and improve housing affordability across the city. Denver is ready for growth that benefits everyone.
A city is only as strong as its downtown. Returning the city center to its full vibrancy is one of Leslie’s top priorities. In her first 100 days, we will host a Downtown Summit with downtown advocates, residents, business owners and innovative real estate leaders. We must increase public safety, get our unhoused neighbors into safe spaces, get our businesses back downtown, and make housing more affordable.
The 16th Street Mall has to be reimagined again to reflect a post-COVID life. We will incentivize local restaurants and shops from our diverse neighborhoods to open second locations, and work to attract back the businesses and employees who have left. We will also look at potentially relocating city departments and agencies to vacant office space in order to increase daily foot traffic on the mall.
Leslie will partner with the Downtown Denver Partnership to implement its safety and security plans by bringing in more co-responders and creating a STAR Hub so people can get the help and connection to services they need. More about Leslie’s Public Safety platform can be found here.
Leslie will make it easier to do business in Denver by setting up a dedicated Accountability Office within the City. Our departments will be held accountable in doing the work of the City under Leslie’s vision and leadership.
The new Accountability Office will embrace technology and adopt a CityScore-inspired initiative, originally developed by former Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston and since adopted by other cities across the country. This data-driven system employs real time key performance metrics to inform the Mayor and the general public of how well the city is performing on its stated priorities.
There are many ways for us to increase efficiency, and cutting permitting wait times is a prime example of where Denver can do better. Leslie will immediately bring in outside assistance to address the backlog of permits, and empower our staff to make fast decisions. There is no reason a review should not be completed within six months. If the process extends beyond that, Leslie believes the city must co-own that problem; Denver should share in the costs and refund a part of the application fee based on the wait time. Further, these refunds will come from the Department’s budget who is causing the delay.At the same time, as Mayor, Leslie will focus on improving city employee morale. The vacancy rate for city employment is unsustainably high, and many of our city employees are not happy. They are burned out, feel they cannot address issues within the workplace, and do not represent our city. 21% of employees report that they are considering leaving within the next year.
Leslie will host a summit of all the Career Service employees to discuss challenges and opportunities. The City is one of the largest employers in Denver. We have a responsibility to care for our employees so that we recruit and retain the best employees in the city. Our workers deserve to be valued and heard. Leslie will reinvest vacancy savings into City employees and the places they work, ensuring they are well resourced to do their job. She did this at the state level; she can and will do it for the city.
Small businesses are the backbone of Denver’s economy. Leslie understands that small businesses are already burdened with excess and wasteful bureaucratic regulations and will work to streamline processes while incentivizing new and current businesses to thrive in Denver.
Denver has always been an entrepreneurial city. Denverites are opening businesses all across the city, but lack support when it comes to keeping those businesses open. Leslie will support small businesses through direct investment opportunities and by establishing peer navigators to help locally-owned and minority-owned businesses navigate city departments and resources that are available.
Year after year, Denver is in the top 10 list of cities to start a business. We have a thriving culture of innovation that attracts entrepreneurs from across the nation to start and grow their businesses here. However, it is critical we ensure every business has the same opportunities to thrive in Denver.
Equity in contracting will be a distinctive value in the Herod Administration. Our minority, women and disadvantaged-small businesses must feel supported and given ample opportunity to work with the city and its partners.
Our Office of Social Equity and Innovation will convene a working group with the Hispanic, Black, Women, Asian, and LGBTQ+ chambers and contractors associations to discuss how the city can best support minority businesses and contracting.
Leslie will partner with organizations like SistahBiz, the Commons on Champa, Mi Casa Resource Center, and the New Community Transformation Fund to increase access to funding and training for minority and women-owned small businesses.
Denver International Airport (DEN) is the primary economic driver for the state, with over $33 billion in economic impact, and is Denver’s gateway to the global economy. As Mayor, Leslie will work to support DEN’s goal of 100 million passengers per year or ‘Vision 100’. While we have one of the best and most efficient airports in the world, it is not currently serving travelers like it should. Leslie will see the Great Hall project through to ease access in and out of the airport and provide business opportunities for our small businesses. She will only pursue new capital projects if they benefit travelers, have a timeframe to complete the project that is realistic, and if they ensure we are staying ahead of our growing traveling demand for the next 20 years.
Denver is ready for bold leadership that expands our economy and puts Denver on the map across the world. Leslie will reestablish economic development hubs in cities like Tokyo, Mexico City, London, and other locations Denver does business.
Arts and culture are essential to Denver’s economy and its positioning as a global city. Leslie will prioritize these industries in her economic development policies. Leslie will also continue to vigorously support the National Western Center, as it preserves our Western heritage and is an economic center in the City.
Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Art Museum, Denver Zoo, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Colorado Symphony and all cultural organizations and SCFD tiers will be supported and celebrated under Leslie’s leadership as keys to our city’s global positioning. We will encourage and facilitate partnerships between these institutions and Denver Public Schools to promote arts education in schools and get our youth involved in these economic drivers across the city. More about Leslie’s commitment to the Arts can be found in her Arts and Culture platform here.
Leslie will boost conventions and tourism by highlighting the culture and beauty of Denver. We will increase efforts with Visit Denver to ensure that the story of Denver is told and people from around the world are excited to share in that story. We will work closely with the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media to attract lucrative projects to our city. Leslie has a history of working with the state and the film industry to pass incentives for film production. She will bring this same passion to the Mayor’s Office.
Denver’s professional sports teams promote the city locally, nationally, and internationally. Denver will work with the Broncos, Rapids, Rockies, Nuggets, Mammoth, and Avalanche to promote and support our teams. Leslie will work with Comcast and Kroenke Sports to ensure that our local fan base can cheer on our local teams at home. We will also work with the teams and the Denver Sports Commission to attract tournaments and other sports attractions that boost tourism and the city’s profile.