The new gold rush: Why the financial industry is choosing Denver South

Colorado’s population boom started long before “Colorado Native” bumper stickers came to be.

The first major gold discovery in Colorado was in 1858, and shortly after officially becoming a state in 1876, Colorado’s population had increased fivefold with newcomers flocking to start farms and find jobs in budding manufacturing and industrial sectors. As a result of the financial activity created by the flurry of new business and commerce, Coloradans found that they needed the formal support of the banking industry and so they did what Coloradans do— they made it happen.

The Colorado Bankers Association (CBA) was an idea as early as 1892, formally becoming the CBA in 1902. Shortly thereafter the Panic of 1907, the first worldwide financial crisis of the twentieth century that started on Wall Street, sparked the national movement that resulted in the establishment of the Federal Reserve System.

Gordon Jones, President of the CBA, advocated for regionally-controlled banks, stressing the needs for bankers to understand the agricultural interests they would be financing. Colorado, which advocated to be the home of its own Federal Reserve Bank, lost out to Kansas City. Instead, the Denver Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City opened in 1918.

The milestone officially made Denver a financial hub in the mountain states.

These days, Colorado’s population is estimated at 5.76 million. The Denver region, no longer a farm town, has become one of the few areas outside of the northeast with a substantial financial services industry in three sub-clusters: (1) banking and finance, (2) investments, and (3) insurance, employing a workforce 30,240 people across 2,270 companies.

Banking in Colorado

Colorado offers a highly-qualified and entrepreneurial workforce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 39.4% of Coloradans over age  25 have their bachelor’s degree or higher, nearly ten points higher than the national average.

Colorado also offers a welcoming tax structure. According to the 2018 State Business Tax Climate Index, Colorado was ranked 18th  for best corporate tax system and business-friendly tax climate in the U.S.

Colorado, once a frontier, is now a geographically central hub of business and commerce. Nearly 64.5 million people traveled through Denver International Airport in 2018, setting a new record for passenger traffic. Non-stop international flights include Frankfurt, London, Paris, and Tokyo. In fact, Colorado sits on 105th meridian—the exact midpoint between Tokyo and Frankfurt.

Real-estate is also a huge draw. Denver South is home to Charles Schwab’s largest office, a 47-acre campus. But it wasn’t always that way. Charles Schwab, headquartered in San Francisco, opened up shop in Lone Tree for relatively less expensive real estate and cost of living.

Why Denver South?

About 6.4 percent of Metro Denver’s labor force was employed in business and financial operations occupations. According to the Denver South Economic Development Partnership’s Industry Cluster Profile for Financial Services, “Financial services companies employed 12.2 percent of the Denver South region’s total employment base and nearly 32 percent of all financial services employment in the nine-county region is located in the Denver South region.”

This is a much higher than-average concentration compared with the U.S. average of 4.9 percent.

In addition to Charles Schwab, Denver South is home to Oppenheimer Funds, Western Union, and Great-West Financial. OppenheimerFunds, Inc. manages more than $249 billion in assets for over 13 million shareholder accounts. It was recently awarded a 2018 Top Workplaces honor by the Denver Post. Western Union, which celebrates 155 years in Denver this year, moved its global headquarters from Englewood to the Denver Tech Center in December 2018. Not to mention Visa expanded its global technology center in Douglas county.

But, as all things go—Colorado’s world of finance keeps a bit of its agricultural roots. The nation’s largest agribusiness bank, CoBank, operates it’s 276,000-square foot headquarters out of Greenwood Village.

And so, while Denver is far from Wall Street, it has been dubbed the “Wall Street of the West.”

For more information, check out the Denver South Economic Development Partnership’s Industry Cluster Profile for Financial Services.

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