Today in New West news: Denver tech outgrowing “startup office spaces,” Montana Artrepreneurship program, and University of Wyoming professor heading to Yale.
According to the Denver Post, the Mile High City’s tech sector is doing brisk business—to the delight of the city’s real estate sector. Indeed, commercial real estate broker CBRE noted that tech was the most active industry when it came to office expansions last year, outpacing even financial services. The reason? Startups are growing too. From the Post:
According to CBRE’s Colorado Tech Book 2016, tech firms leased 1.1 million square feet, or 16.5 percent of the commercial office leases in metro Denver, compared to about 10.7 percent in 2014. Tech, which includes software and hardware businesses, was followed by healthcare leases at 15.6 percent, and energy firms at 13.29 percent. The telecom industry was separated from tech and ranked seventh, at 7.38 percent.
But the rise isn’t due just to the entrepreneurial spirit and growth in coworking spaces, although there is a lot of that. It’s that startups are growing up and entering a new mid-level stage of business. They’re not sticking with hipster converted industrial spaces or an urban atmosphere, said Jessica Ostermick, director of research and analysis for CBRE.
“Denver is great because of that startup dynamic. But in order to mature into that gazelle, they’re signing leases. And they’re adding meaningful numbers in employment,” Ostermick said. “Downtown is garnering much more attention from tech companies and it’s not just LoDo and brick and timber (construction). There are tech companies who are very happy in traditional high rises. They can get a ping-pong table on the 34th floor just as they can in RiNo.”
While the average technology tenant is small — just 5,400 square feet in the River North Arts District, compared to the typical office lease of 40,000 square feet — there have been sizable chunks of real estate snapped up by expanding tech firms since January. Those include mobile-app developer Ibotta, which tripled its space in the spring to 38,000 square feet, and SendGrid, an e-mail transaction firm that committed to 52,000 square feet in the central business district.
The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade bragged Monday that since 2013, the state has attracted or retained 111 companies and 27,076 jobs. The agency also unveiled a redesigned website, at ChooseColorado.com, to show available commercial properties, potential financial incentives and the lifestyle, which is often credited for convincing a company to move.
“What we’re starting to see more of are companies headquartered in Silicon Valley and New York or the East Coast who are going from startup to scale up. And Denver is being considered for their first expansion outside of their home state,” said Sam Bailey, the state agency’s senior manager of global business development.
Over in Montana, according to the Missoulian, artists across the state have been reaping the benefits of the Montana Artrepreneur Program, established by the Montana Arts Council in 2009. Aimed at getting artists into the marketplace without compromising their style or vision, Montana Artrepreneur caters to people like Olive Parker—a single mother living in the Bitterroot Valley who decided to pursue her passion in leather carving.
The courses appeared to have paid off; Parker went from knowing next to nothing about her business besides how to make the product—well, we might add—to competing with some of the best leather artisans in the nation. Indeed, Parker recently took home a top prize for her leather work at the Western Design Conference in Jackson, Wyoming. Today, her Montana Leather Designs can be found in 85 stores across the country—from Philadelphia to Hawaii. From the Missoulian:
“We have a very different philosophy we teach from a business perspective,” said Sheri Jarvis, the statewide MAP coordinator. “The traditional theory focuses on creating supply to meet demand. But we are looking at helping artists create the best work that is most unique to them, helping them find their distinct voice in their art and then strategically figuring out who their target market is likely to be. Then deliberately placing them in front of those people to make sales and cultivate collectors.”
It’s almost 180 degrees from traditional business theory, Jarvis said.
“Instead of a local artist saying ‘Hey, I live in the Bitterroot and tourists here love landscape paintings depicting mountain scenes so I better crank out a bunch of those if I want to make money,’ we’re saying, if that person is more interested in doing something different, we need to figure out how to help that person find customers interested in a unique value proposition,” Jarvis explained. She said artists are always relieved to hear the fundamental principle of the program is that they don’t have to change their art to be successful.
Art is big business in Montana. A recent survey of 80 artists conducted by the Arts Council found that they generated $470,387 in net art sales in 2014, a 397 percent increase from before they took the MAP course. The people who completed the MAP program and responded to the survey also increased their sales of art outside the state by 44 percent and generated 37 percent of their gross personal income from art sales. Many reported increased sales locations, increased customers and new business investments.
The program has now served more than 400 people in the state.
“Montana is full of artists,” Jarvis said. “Look at this beautiful place. You can’t not be inspired and ignited by the grandeur of the state. People here are also kind. When you live in a land of kindness, you are propelled to do your best work. And when artists sell out of state, it’s all new money. So this program helps them be more efficient in getting recognition out of state and out of the country.”
Finally, down in Wyoming, according to the Casper Star Tribune, a professor at the University of Wyoming has been accepted as the Dean of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University. Ingrid C. Burke, who has directed UW’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources since 2008, will start in October. From the Tribune:
Burke said she loves the impact the Haub School has had on natural resources decisions in Wyoming and the West. She hopes the position at Yale will allow her to be involved in similar types of decisions on a global scale.
“I think I can help bring some of that real-world problem solving certainly to the education at Yale and hopefully to some of their outreach efforts as well,” Burke said. “It was hard to resist.”
Burke is an ecosystem ecologist with a focus on semi-arid rangelands, according to her website.
“The lack of open spaces is going to be a problem, frankly, for me,” Burke said. “I’m going to try and capitalize on the water.”
Yale’s statement noted that the Haub School was one of the top Western academic institutions focusing on natural resources and said Burke had helped build the school’s global reputation.
“She is a respected intellectual leader in the United States and internationally,” Yale president Peter Salovey said in the release.
Burke, who received her doctorate in botany from UW, added she won’t leave Wyoming behind; indeed, she hopes to cultivate a connection between Yale and the Cowboy State.