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The Denver mojo

Jamie Van Leeuwen //October 27, 2011//

The Denver mojo

Jamie Van Leeuwen //October 27, 2011//

What do you get when you take 150 industry, nonprofit and public sector leaders and travel to a model city in the United States on a Leadership Exchange trip?

With that many Type A personalities, first you have to figure out who is going to fly the plane. And yet, somehow, some way, each year, the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation manages to guide us all there and return us all home safely … most of us!

And each year there are “takeaways” that we bring back that hopefully guide us in our work to make Colorado a healthier place to live. And so this year, there are some ABCs of LEX that I thought I would share.

A-mazing Opportunities: Both on the health-care front and nonprofit arena, Boston has a lot to brag about with an industry that has done a remarkable job of partnering with higher education to hit the ball out of the park. Go to Harvard, MIT or stop by City Year and see how Boston is making waves with health care and serving the underserved.

Takeaway: We are too! This year’s trip opened our eyes to the enormous potential of Fitzsimons if industry leaders, the public sector and higher education work in close partnership. As for City Year, thanks to the Walton Family Foundation and Comcast (and others), this innovative approach to mentoring is landing in Colorado this Fall.

B-uilding Better Schools: We saw a model charter school in Boston that was supported through an innovative private-public partnership and yielded impressive test scores from underserved, hard-to-reach students.

Takeaway: We have those same model schools here in Colorado, like the Denver School of Science and Technology. We are working hard, in the business community and at all levels of government, to make sure every school in the state is a model school with great teachers.

C-utting Edge Leadership: We heard from Gov. Deval Patrick, who left us waiting for more as he wowed our delegation with his innovative approaches to government. And then after a rousing tour of Fenway Park, we settled down for lunch to hear from the legendary Mayor Thomas Menino, who has played such a key role in growing Boston into the cutting edge city that it is today.

Takeaway: Yeah, yeah. But we have Gov. John Hickenlooper, Mayor Michael Hancock and Coors Field! And we have industry leaders like Beth Soberg from United Health Care and Peter Beaupré from PCL Construction, who take time to be part of these conversations. And we have a community here in Colorado that works together and plays together because of the sense of team that exists. It is the team that brought the Democratic National Convention to Denver and the team that championed one of the most aggressive transportation build-outs in the country.

And so we return home this year from Boston knowing that there are things we can do better, things we can dream about doing and things we are happy we are not doing. We can’t lay claim to the Big Dig (thank goodness), and we don’t have Harvard.

But we have a community with a heart that is committed to cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit. And with every year, we return home knowing that while the places we visit have their advantages, there is no place like home.
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Jamie Van Leeuwen is senior policy adviser for Gov. John Hickenlooper.