How the Denver Mayoral Candidates Plan to Diversify Small Biz

In the mayoral runoff election it's about fostering a diverse workforce and economy

Ali Longwell //May 31, 2019//

How the Denver Mayoral Candidates Plan to Diversify Small Biz

In the mayoral runoff election it's about fostering a diverse workforce and economy

Ali Longwell //May 31, 2019//


Helping to support and grow Denver’s small business community is top of mind for Denver’s mayoral candidates. In a May 29 event hosted by the city's women and minority chambers of commerce, incumbent Michael Hancock and challenger Jamie Giellis shared how their platforms intersect with the booming Colorado and Denver economy.

Michael Hancock

If elected to a third term, Hancock says he wants to focus on fostering the city’s entrepreneurial spirit, which has fueled the city’s growth.

“In the last eight years as I’ve been mayor, 8,100 companies have moved to Denver or started in Denver,” Hancock says, adding that this has resulted in the creation of 100,000 jobs and was “driven by small businesses.

To continue this growth, Hancock says he plans to build an ecosystem that drives and nurtures small businesses, especially those that are minority- and women-owned/operated.

This includes implementing small business utilization plans in each city department to  expand contracting opportunities for minority- and women- owned businesses; creating a mentorship program for these businesses; offering job opportunities for local residents on local projects; expanding the city’s Race and Social Justice Initiative to reduce biases for employees and agencies; and develop what he calls innovation centers that will target entrepreneurs in the neighborhoods where they live.

Jamie Giellis

Giellis’ position on small business is rooted in the fact that both she and her husband own their own.  “We recognize the challenges of operating here,” she says. “And then we also recognize that there are additional challenges in truly supporting the minority-owned businesses that are struggling to get contracts and work even with the city of Denver.”

Giellis says the conversation around small business in the city’s Office of Economic Development needs to be elevated to discuss the support needed for these businesses.  Denver needs to “lean-in to our communities of color and see how we work to support the development of small businesses,” she says.

Giellis’ plan:

  • Create an Office of Small Business in Denver that will act as a resource for planning, developing and increasing the access of support to small businesses.
  • Ease the cost burdens for these businesses with tax relief and tax credit opportunities, access to labor, reduce fees and requirements where possible and advance construction mitigation efforts.
  • Create training, support and mentorship for women and minority groups.
  • Adopt a slow investment approach that helps incubate businesses, rather than focus on return on investment.
  • Find ways to make changes in minimum wage and health care costs to help small businesses absorb those costs.

The June 4 runoff will decide races in which no candidate received more than 50% of the vote in the May 7 election. This includes the offices of mayor and clerk and recorder, as well as City Council Districts 1, 3, 5, 9 and 10

Mike Ferrufino, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, one of the event sponsors, says the winners of the runoff will have to face the challenges that confront small businesses and minority-owned businesses in particular.

Obstacles include overcoming difficult workforce environments and high cost of operations, both with infrastructure and taxes, he says.

The city’s support is critical, Ferrufino says, because small business means “long-term economic growth — it kind of sounds cliché, but this is the backbone of our economy. (In Denver and Colorado) there’s a spirit of innovation that’s allowed to permeate in all areas by being able to go through and support a culture that values entrepreneurship and innovation for small business.”