GUEST COLUMN — President of Bank of America and DDP on the Power of Economic Diversification

Downtown Denver has positioned itself for continuous growth and success despite the challenges and changes stemming from a post-pandemic environment. Denver ranked sixth for the fastest-growing city in the US economy and as the best large city to start a business. Denver’s quality of life attracts talent, innovation and venture funding, which is contributing to significant economic growth in the area.

Recently, the Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP) hosted its 2023 Economic Outlook, focusing on perspectives from industry leaders about how businesses — from startups to established companies — are navigating economic challenges and opportunities, their stories of success and their predictions for Denver’s future. Participants and business leaders gained insights and tools to help them make the decisions and implement strategies needed to navigate emerging economic conditions and ensure success.

READ: Open for Business — Four Priorities for Maintaining Colorado’s Economic Competitiveness

According to the DDP, Denver venture funding soared to an all-time high of 1.9 billion in Q2 of 2022, a 111% increase. To sustain a vital and thriving downtown area, attracting new businesses to relocate is not enough. Investing in the expansion of large corporations is not the full story either. Our future economy will be shaped by our ability to start and grow small businesses right here in Denver.

Recognizing the impact small businesses and entrepreneurs have on our local economy and business community, Bank of America deploys the resources, tools and capital to help businesses launch and grow. As we examine the impacts of an uncertain market, small business owners nationwide are concerned about key economic factors such as inflation, commodities prices and supply chain, fueling anxiety around their overall outlook. According to Bank of America 2023 Small Business Owner Report, while the majority of U.S. small business owners (72%) are concerned about the impact of a potential recession, 76% are confident their business could withstand the downturn.

Moreover, despite the continued impact of inflation and supply chain issues, 65% of business owners anticipate revenue growth in the next 12 months. Additionally, findings from the Bank of America Institute suggest that small businesses saw little interruption to their operations in March, with spending growth in line with recent trends. Notably, payroll spending growth ticked up even as wage inflation decelerated in March, pointing to resilient small business hiring despite the uncertainties.

READ: Unlocking the Power of Data for Small Businesses: How Data Implementation Drives Business Growth and Success

Inclusivity and economic prosperity for communities of color

Through local partnerships with organizations, capital, tools and personalized service, Bank of America does everything we can to help businesses grow and realize their dreams. For example, the bank has invested in the launch of the New Community Transformation Fund (NCTF) in Denver, the first Black-owned, woman-led venture capital firm in Colorado. The fund invests in early to mid-stage businesses owned and operated by entrepreneurs of color. This investment is an example of how the bank directs capital and resources to expand the business sector, support the workforce and strengthen the overall community.

By accelerating the flow of capital into funds that invest in Black/African American, Hispanic-Latino, other under-represented minority- and women-led businesses, we can help level the playing field and drive greater job and wealth creation in Colorado.

READ: Celebrating Black Business Owners in Boulder — Leontyne Ashmore’s Barefoot-inspired Shoes

New and emerging technologies

Looking to the future, business owners believe new technologies will be critical to risk reduction and success. Many business owners have already begun aggressively incorporating new technologies. An earlier publication of the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report noted 70% of business owners reported having adopted new digital tools and strategies, including accepting more forms of cashless payments and banking more via online and mobile apps. Longer-term, 44% of business owners plan to prioritize digital sales over brick and mortar, and many believe that cybersecurity and automation will be critical to success.

How and where we work in 2023

Normalization of remote work has slowed the return to office, which in turn, has increased office vacancies to historic levels. While downtown Denver is currently at a 55% occupation rate during the weekdays, above the national average, the shortage of skilled talent is driving companies to offer commute-worthy office spaces and amenities to retain and attract talent as employees continue to demand flexibility. The power of place is increasingly important, positioning downtown Denver and the quality of life we enjoy as an appealing place for talent to establish their roots in, especially from higher-cost coastal cities.

Through the spirit of collaboration and cooperation, we can work together to solve big challenges and make bold moves to grow our economy. At the end of the day, vibrant communities + strong business = a great city.

 

Kourtny Garrett HeadshotRaju Patel HeadshotKourtny Garrett is the President & CEO Downtown Denver Partnership and Raju Patel is the President of Bank of America Colorado