Colorado should be More Aggressive about Recruiting Overseas
by Gil Cisneros
Denver Business Journal
To paraphrase Mark Twain's lament about the weather: Everyone in Colorado talks about international trade, but very few do anything about it.
Does that mean there's no interest in the subject? That small- to medium-size companies have all the business they can handle right at home?
Of course not. As a matter of fact, the reverse is true.
That's why I think our leaders and legislators need to become more aggressive in recruiting business to Colorado — especially overseas.
The point was brought home to me after the recent Chamber of the America's Women in International Trade conference. Judging by the number of women who attended, there's significant need for information that enables business people to widen their perspective beyond domestic shores to opportunities in foreign markets.
We need leaders and lawmakers who understand that international trade ultimately will create the jobs we all want. Unfortunately, there's an enthusiasm gap in these quarters; we extend invitations to chamber events, but rarely do any lawmakers show up.
It's important to recognize that we live in a flyover state, and from up high, we're just another expanse of land with nothing that shouts BUSINESS.
Colorado simply isn't on the radar of many foreign operations. When people from Latin America scout business opportunities in the United States, they look at Houston and Miami; few seriously consider Colorado.
We've been making some progress, but we have a long way to go, starting with a commitment from our leaders to make international trade happen.
At both the Colorado International Trade Office and the Mayor's Office of Economic Development (MOED), there has to be less staff turnover and more stability, so that clients seeking guidance have the comfort of dealing with the same person each time they visit.
Yes, we have budget problems, but I don't remember a time in history when we didn't, when money was overflowing.
About five years ago, MOED had offices in London and Shanghai. These have been shut down, and I'm guessing it's because they didn't produce big numbers in the short term.
Typically, there is a long lead time involved in converting a prospect to a client.
But what these offices did consistently was keep the focus on Denver and Colorado — and that, as they say, was priceless.
As a result of cutbacks through the years, international trade is the baby that's been thrown out with the bath water; it's simply not the priority it needs to be, particularly when dealing with Latin America.
If we can recruit businesses from other states, we can certainly begin to recruit in other areas of the world.
The question we need to answer is: Are we going to move forward and do what it takes to claim the title of “international city and state,” or are we going to give up trying and lose out on the economic advantages that international trade brings.