Housing, economic threats, education topics at Denver metro State of the City

Lakewood mayor among luncheon speakers

Posted 8/5/19
Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Bijal Shah, chief product and analytics officer for Guild Education, who works to better America's workforce through education and others took …

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Housing, economic threats, education topics at Denver metro State of the City

Lakewood mayor among luncheon speakers

Posted

Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Bijal Shah, chief product and analytics officer for Guild Education, who works to better America's workforce through education and others took stage at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce's State of the City luncheon.

The luncheon, held on July 30 at the Seawell Ballroom at the Denver Center for the Performance Arts, saw hundreds of business and community leaders gather to hear about challenges facing communities, the future of workforce training and other subject matters.

Here are some highlights from the luncheon.

Housing a primary focus

Aside from working to run a city, Paul is the chair of the Metro Mayors Caucus, a group of voluntary Denver area mayors that work together on issues of regional importance.

“For over 20 years, the cost and availability of housing in our regions has been the primary concern of the caucus," Paul said. He added that it's important to continue to develop new, low cost rental services and for sale housing.

“We need options for seniors who want to downsize, young buyers looking to build equity, workers who need to live near their jobs and households looking to make ends meet,” Paul told the business and community leaders.

He warned of growth caps possibly being implemented in other communities that are similar to Lakewood's recent special election. In July, Lakewood passed the Lakewood Strategic Growth Initiative, a measure that limits new home construction to 1% per year and requires City Council's approval of developments of 40 units or more.

“If we fail to act in a meaningful way on our transportation and housing crises, we have grave concerns that our residents' frustration will result in anti-growth measures that only escalate our housing challenges and threaten our vibrant economy,” said Paul.

Hancock's conversation with Joe Biden

Hancock reminisced of a conversation he had with former Vice President and possible presidential candidate Joe Biden.

During that conversation, Hancock asked Biden what the greatest economic threat facing the country is. Hancock told the crowd at the luncheon Biden believes it's cost of living exceeding wages.

In March, Denver City Council voted unanimously to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021 for city government employees. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a new law in May that allows for municipal governments in the state to raise their minimum wage higher than the state's. Colorado's minimum wage will hit $12 per hour by 2020.

“A good day's work, no matter the job, should be compensated with a livable wage,” Hancock said at the luncheon.

Want a job in Colorado in the future? You may need education after high school.

Shah said a high percentage of the US workforce is at risk of automation, causing worries that technology can change or eliminate some jobs.

“Advanced technological skills, social, emotional and higher cognitive skills will continue to grow in demand rapidly. That said, the demand for physical, manual and basic cognitive skills will continue to decline as these are the easiest jobs to automate,” said Shah at the luncheon.

She talked about a key talking point in recent Democratic debates - student loan debt. Democrat and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren recently introduced a bill that would erase nearly $640 billion of outstanding student loan debt, according to Politico.

“Unfortunately, this doesn't help the impact that automation is going to have on our future of work and just pushes the debt to another party to handle — our government,” said Shah. Forbes reported in February that there are over 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the country.

With the student debt crisis and an increased cost of college tuition, there is a mismatch in supply and demand, Shah said. But she offered a solution — tuition assistance.

“Rather than thinking about going to school to get work, what if the job funded going to school,” questioned Shah. She said the idea would reduce student loan debt, help guide employees toward jobs in the future and reduce the overall worker skills gap.

Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kelly Brough said nearly three out of every four jobs in Colorado will require some education after high school.

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