Governor John Hickenlooper

Governor John Hickenlooper

2012 Rocky Mountain Guest of Honor

John Hickenlooper’s vision is even bigger than his name. His ability to include this vision, in both business and government, has led to continued success throughout his career.

After being laid-off as a geologist in the 1980s, John struggled for a while until he came up with the crazy idea to build Colorado’s first brewpub. As John likes to say, “I didn’t know anything about starting a business. I didn’t even know what a pro forma was.”

But John went to the library, got books on how to write a business plan and started the long process of making his vision a reality. Although he had to interview with more than 20 banks, he eventually opened The Wynkoop Brewing Co. in the dilapidated warehouse district of downtown Denver. His vision proved successful, and his brewpub and restaurant are now mainstays of Denver’s community, and the beating heart of the lower downtown neighborhood.

As the mayor of Denver, John’s business abilities, partnered with his progressive vision for the city, have played important roles in the success he has achieved since taking office. In 2005, after serving only two years as mayor, Time Magazine placed him among the top five “big-city” mayors in the country. In 2008, John brought a new level of attention to the Mile High City, successfully marketing Denver as an ideal city to host the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Born in Narberth, Pennsylvania, John lost his father at a young age and was raised by his notoriously frugal mother. Having lived through the Great Depression, John’s mother never wore a dress she didn’t sew herself, and she washed plastic wrap and aluminum foil for reuse.

John has carried those lessons of frugality and budget consciousness throughout his life, and as an entrepreneur and politician, they have been crucial to his success.

John moved to Colorado in 1981, after earning a Master’s in Geology at Wesleyan University, and found work with Buckhorn Petroleum. With the collapse of the oil industry in the 1980s, John was laid-off, providing him with the opportunity to follow his entrepreneurial vision.

When he opened the Wynkoop Brewing Company in 1988, the Lower Downtown section of Denver was a rough neighborhood. To the surprise of his business partners, John made a point of advertising near-by restaurants in his brewpub. Though his friends told him he was nuts, John understood that the real competition was television: if they could create an attractive atmosphere that would pull people off their couches, every restaurant in the area would benefit. His efforts helped revitalize the area and turned “LoDo” into the dynamic, bustling community it is today.

As Denver began the construction of its new football stadium, John got involved in the negotiations, ensuring that the new stadium stay true to its original name, the famed Mile High Stadium. Ever the believer in good marketing, John was concerned that the city was about to lose its one landmark with “Mile High” in its title. His work helped create the first brokered naming deal in the nation, for what is now Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. John’s leadership on the deal and his connection to the community got his friends talking about a run for mayor.

In 2003, without ever having run for public office, John entered the race for mayor. Despite opposition from seasoned political veterans, he captured the attention of voters with his outsiders’ perspective and business prowess, and he won by a landslide 2-to-1 margin.

Before ever taking office, he tossed aside regional conflicts – announcing to suburban mayors that the days of “Denver first” were over. John pushed aside partisanship and reached out to Colorado’s Republican Governor to bridge a new, city-state partnership. Just like he did in his early days in LoDo, John knew that as the state and region succeeded, so would Denver and vice-versa.

As mayor, John has consistently honed a creative, innovative, and efficient edge to government. He overhauled the city’s financial system, creating the city’s first chief financial officer, and passed a bill to annul tenured salaries in the city, making government function more effectively.

In 2005, John introduced GreenPrint Denver, a plan to improve Denver’s urban environment by increasing efficiency and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting “green” urban design, and implementing an aggressive waste reduction campaign. So far, the effort has reduced energy use at Denver International Airport by 11 percent per passenger, increased recycling throughout the city by 69 percent, and reduced water use at City Hall by a million gallons per year.

In 2008, John successfully marketed Denver’s long-shot bid for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. As promised, John avoided using public funds for the campaign. Instead, he traveled the country to garner support from leaders in the Democratic community, procuring the necessary funding to host the convention. The event put Colorado on the international stage and brought more than $260 million into the local economy.

John’s most ambitious campaign, his mission to reduce homelessness in Denver, has seen great success. Denver’s Road Home provides employment assistance and housing for the homeless. The success of this program has become a model for other cities, illustrating how they can combat homelessness within the inner city.

Overall, his tireless efforts to improve the city of Denver have paid-off. Despite shrinking budgets and managing the city through two national recessions, a recent citizen survey found that Denver’s overall community quality rating improved from 78 percent in 2002 to 86 percent today.

John is now running for Governor on a jobs creation and economic development platform. In using his experience as a jobs creator and consensus builder in government, he wants to increase opportunity for the people of Colorado.

John has the experience to manage our state through these tough economic times, and he recognizes what businesses need to grow in order for them to hire more employees. He can do more than just talk about making government more efficient, he can point to his accomplishments as mayor of a major city.

And perhaps most importantly, John has a track record of bringing people together to solve problems instead of stoking the same old partisan squabbles.

He has a vision to make Colorado the best it can be, and John Hickenlooper is asking for your vote.