Anyone in two-thirds of Americans who approve of President Joe Biden’s US infrastructure investment employment plan likely knows someone in Denver or flies non-stop from their 25-year-old international airport to North America, Asia, Europe or Europe South America. Flying to Paris on weekends is the newest connection to Denver.

DIA, the only major new US airport since Dallas-Fort Worth was completed in 1974, was the largest public works project in Colorado history. It is the largest airport in geographic size in the US and number 3 in the world. Last year, for the first time, she was in charge of the measurement of domestic origin and destination traffic by the Ministry of Transport.

Five busiest US airports

Origin and destination traffic in 2020.

Source: Ministry of Transport

It’s also the state’s top moneymaker, pumping $ 33.5 billion into the economy with 259,084 jobs.

That’s more than eight times the best year at Stapleton International Airport, the relic of the 20th century that was replaced by the support of 65% of Denver voters in a 1989 referendum. They had seen an exodus in the 1980s to the point where the state lost people. The new airport has helped change the trajectory of the Colorado population, which has grown by 15% over the past decade to 5.8 million. This is the third fastest growth rate among the major states since 2010, according to Bloomberg.

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“I can’t imagine where we would be without the air link that DIA provides to the rest of the country and the rest of the world,” said Governor Jared Polis, the former Democratic Congressman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who took office in 2019. “Without the growth that the airport has helped to shape, if we didn’t have the productivity and quality of life advantages that a good infrastructure can offer, ”said Polis in an interview at the governor’s villa earlier this month.

Denver International Airport would not exist without its original attorney, Federico Pena, who was elected the city’s first Hispanic mayor in 1983 before becoming secretary of transportation and energy in President Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s. Some local businessmen, led by Republican media advisor Roger Ailes, who would later head Fox News, attacked Pena’s project as a boondoggle.

The airline’s managing directors weren’t thrilled either. American Airlines chairman Robert L. Crandall derided the project as “a field of dreams,” “a way out in the boonies,” and told Time Magazine in 1991 that “there is no need for a new airport in Denver.”

Denver International Airport was funded with revenue bonds, which turned out to be the top performers in the national and municipal debt market. In the past three years, the bonds have gained the most weight in the ICE BofA US Airport Municipal Securities Index, according to data from Bloomberg, at 3.8 percentage points out of 47 major US airports.

At the same time, DIA bonds led the debt performance of the five largest airports with a total return (income plus appreciation) of 18%, outperforming Chicago O’Hare at 17%. San Francisco, 16%; Los Angeles, 15%; and Dallas 11%.

“We were the first major airport to sell revenue bonds without airline agreements,” Pena said earlier this month during an interview at his downtown Denver venture capital firm helping startups. “People thought we couldn’t do it. We were oversubscribed. And people came to Denver and never went to the extent that it became the second highest per capita college education community in the United States. ”

Colorado’s commitment to infrastructure at the end of the last century ended its traditional dependence on mining and energy and transformed the economy. The employment rate has grown the fastest in each state at 68.5% over the past five years and, according to Bloomberg, the highest among the 45 in the country with a population of more than 1 million.

A state that works

Activity rate.

Source: Bloomberg

The 21st most populous state is now way above its weight and has been number 3 in the overall rankings since 2010 in terms of employment, personal income, property prices, mortgage loans, tax revenues and corporate capital. This is based on data compiled by Bloomberg. Colorado has more professional athletes per capita than any other state, among other things, with national baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, rugby, and soccer teams.

Colorado’s non-farm workforce has increased 20% over the past 10 years, better than any other state but four. Personal income rose 86% over the same period, No. 3 in the nation; House prices rose 78%, the second fastest rate, and tax revenue rose 81%, the third highest in the nation. All of this explains the increasing diversity of the economy, in which the gross national product from accommodation and catering services has increased by 132%. Arts entertainment and recreation, 53%; Construction, 106%; Educational services, 54%; Transportation and storage, 96%, and retail, 58%, according to data from Bloomberg.

In 1995, materials such as coal mining, metal mining, and chemistry accounted for 64% of the Colorado business, industrials at 11% and energy at 6%, according to Bloomberg. Since then, the tables have turned and the weight on materials has dropped to 21%, overtaken by the consumer discretionary industry, including restaurants, resorts, apparel and education services. Technology is the third largest sector with 14%, followed by communication with 12%.

When Denver International Airport was completed in 1995, only 47 Colorado-based companies were on the Russell 3000 Index, the benchmark for large and small businesses in the United States. The 77% increase to 83 since then is the largest of the 16 states with economies similar to or larger than Colorado, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. With easy access for companies to national and international destinations, DIA made it easier for companies to expand their business.

Arrow Electronics Inc., the technology distributor that moved from New York to Centennial, Colorado in 2011, grew 5.6x in the ten years after moving and posted its 2.27% annual growth in the last few 10 years in the shadows, according to Bloomberg. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., the Denver-based restaurant chain, grew 69% in the past 12 months, more than 70% versus its six American competitors over the same period. Crocs Inc., the Broomfield, Colorado-based shoe maker, gained 276%, tripling the return of 18 colleagues in the S&P 500 Apparel Index.

“We moved the US Patent Trademark Office to Denver, which was huge for us, and when we asked them why, they said it was because of your investment in infrastructure,” said Michael Hancock, Denver’s second African American mayor, now in his third term . “America stands behind the eight when it comes to investing in infrastructure.” During an interview at City Hall earlier this month, the Mayor said, “I hope the work we’ve done opened the world to Denver through Denver International. The airport defines us.”

But Hancock is confident that the Denver experience will allow Biden to get some if not all of its infrastructure packages off the ground. The American employment plan is even backed by Republicans – for reasons Coloradan’s political beliefs discovered decades ago.

(With support from Shin Pei, Keith Gerstein, and Claire Che.)

((Updates are returned for Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Crocs Inc. in the 16th paragraph.)

This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or of Bloomberg LP or its owners.

How to contact the author of this story:
Matthew A. Winkler at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at [email protected]

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