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Denver: The Clean-Energy Capital of the West

Denver bills itself as the "Balanced Energy Capital of
the West," a term that can best be defined as a place where the
fossil-fuel and mining industries, long a bulwark of the Denver economy, are
balanced by an aggressive move into the clean energy economy. Not a bad
strategy if you consider that Denver's unemployment rate has hovered
well below the national average despite an economy reliant not only on energy
and mining, where jobs were down 14 percent, but also on construction, down
12.5 percent, and travel and hospitality, down about 1 percent last year.

On the upside, Denver is the
largest city within a 600 mile radius and as such anchors the Rocky Mountain
states’ economy as a transportation hub, and a center for federal and
state government jobs, sectors the BLS predicts will grow over the next decade.
A sizable telecom sector also held steady and will start to build on the .7
percent annual growth it has posted since 2008.

While it may sound like little
more than boosterism, the Balanced Energy idea is actually paying off. Out
of about 384 metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S., Denver ranks 39th in terms of clean energy jobs, and Colorado is generating these jobs at about
twice the rate as overall job growth — 18.2 percent vs. 8.2 percent. “These
represent a broad swath of occupations, including researchers, engineers,
electricians, scientists, fuel systems specialists, plumbers, and manufacturing
jobs,” says Chris Lafakis, an economist at Moody’s “The clean energy economy is a faster growing segment of
the broader economy and if you invest in it, you’re going to create
more jobs for every dollar invested.”

Denver's Gov. Bill Ritter
On April 19 Gov. Bill Ritter signed the
Clean-Air Clean-Jobs Act into law, which will upgrade coal-fired power plants to natural gas and bring an estimated 400 jobs to the area.

Photo courtesy of Gov. Bill Ritter's office.

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