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After Pandemic Lull, Companies Continue To Eye Denver As Hub For Expansion

A chemist works in a laboratory.

After five companies announced plans over the past month to relocate and expand their operations to the Denver area, economic development officials say corporate interest in the Front Range has returned, led by bioscience firms and companies looking to escape the high prices found on the West Coast.

Metro Denver has been a target for companies looking to expand from the West for years, but the pandemic threw cold water on economic development efforts in the region. Nearly two years later, interest in the region has renewed, according to Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. CEO Raymond Gonzales.

“We have 56 active prospects in our pipeline today,” Gonzales told Bisnow. “When you measure against what that looked like last year at this time, we have doubled in terms of prospect activity.”

An influx of tech companies to the region in recent years has helped to prop up the commercial real estate sector, and that economic development is slated to continue as newcomers enter the market. This includes Australian ticketing startup Humantix and food-safety startup SnapDNA, both of which announced their intent to open locations in metro Denver last month.

Other companies planning to expand to Denver include fintech firm Robinhood; construction management firm Hill International; and business intelligence company Edge R&D. The companies did not disclose how much space they would be seeking in the Denver market. 

The months of slower activity due to Covid-19 were a time of change at the Metro Denver EDC. Former leader J.J. Ament was hired as CEO of the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, an organization that works arm-in-arm with the EDC. Gonzales took his position at the EDC’s helm in December.

Also in late 2021, the EDC launched a new branding campaign, dubbed The Elevation Effect, with the goal of appealing to the white whale of business attraction and retention in today’s marketplace: talent. 

Colorado is home to the second-largest pool of educated talent in the U.S., with 42% of the state’s population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. But even that talent pool isn’t deep enough to meet the needs of today’s employers, Gonzales said.

“We still have a lack of talent in this market. We’ll be driving a lot of strategies to attract and retain more talent,” he said.

The organization doesn’t seek to duplicate the education and training efforts already managed by the state and its universities, but it instead plans to develop data-driven strategies to identify and then fill gaps in specific industries.

Bioscience companies make up the largest number of potential jobs in the economic development pipeline at 3,100, followed by food, agriculture and beverage at 2,700. 

With companies like Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Terumo BCT all maintaining research facilities in the area, bioscience has been closely watched as a growing industry in metro Denver for several years. Life sciences employment in the area grew by 80% in the last 20 years, according to a report from Cushman & Wakefield, and is poised to continue expansion.

Although, with just 4.7M SF of laboratory space in the market, lack of available supply could pose a problem for the industry’s expansion, the report states.