BY FREDA MIKLIN
On August 4, the quarterly meeting of Denver South (formerly Denver South Economic Development Partnership) focused on three companies whose newly located operations are making a significant impact. They are Kiewit Corporation’s regional headquarters in Lone Tree, Amazon’s DDV4 facility just southeast of Centennial Airport, and Vectra Bank’s new building and headquarters in Denver’s Belleview Station. The meeting drew over 100 local leaders in business and government, including Centennial Mayor Stephanie Piko and Lone Tree Mayor Jackie Millet, along with members of both cities’ city councils.
Ashley Comstock, senior vice-president and chief financial officer of VectraBank, shared that the company began evaluating its options for a headquarters in 2017. “Belleview Station was a clear, easy choice for us,” she said, because of its location right off I-25 and its close proximity to light rail, which was critical. VectraBank plans to move the first of its 175 employees into the nine-story building currently under construction at Belleview Station in December. She pointed out that the location offers brand recognition and an excellent environment for employee recruitment and retention due to the first-class amenities in the building and in the area. She credited Confluent Development with encouraging VectraBank to choose the location. Having the headquarters of Western Union and Newmont Mining nearby was also an important factor.
Comstock shared that, in a nod to sustainability, one of the floors of VectraBank that will be used for parking, is designed to be convertible to office space in the future, should fewer people drive to work.
Sam Bailey, manager of economic development policy for the mountain west region of Amazon, said his company employs 1.5 million people in 56 countries, including 20,000 in Colorado, where it also supports 34,500 small and medium-sized businesses that sell on Amazon. The company has invested $5.5 billion in the state’s economy.
He explained that Amazon spreads the inventory of its sellers to fulfillment centers in multiple locations, “making a local business national and global in a matter of days.”
Local fulfillment centers, which are comprised of around three million square feet, are located in Aurora, Thornton and Colorado Springs. Tractor trailers transport merchandise from those centers to various cities, where it is moved to Amazon’s blue vans for final delivery. Bailey pointed to a metro Denver Amazon facility from which, “If you order something at 10:00 p.m., it might be on your doorstep by 5:00 a.m. Don’t be surprised.”
Focusing on the south metro area, he said that when Amazon is deciding where to locate a new facility, it evaluates cities by whether its employees would want to live there. “Increasingly, that’s the pitch that communities (who want new jobs in their cities) have to be prepared to make, because it’s not just going to be about where we can site a facility, it’s going to be about where employees can live.”
An important benefit Amazon offers to its employees is paying for their education. Bailey explained, “We have partnered with educational institutions, including Metropolitan State University, Community College of Aurora, CU Colorado Springs, CSU Global, Pikes Peak Community College, and Denver Community College. If you are an associate with us for 90 days, part-time or full-time, we will pay for your associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree.” They even pay these costs in advance, rather than on a reimbursement basis and will also support employees seeking an apprenticeship or an internship. Amazon also provides its employees with benefits, including health care and retirement, on day one of their employment.
Lastly, Bailey talked about those communities that fear growth. He said, “You’re either growing or you’re declining. There’s no stasis.” He said that communities that plan their growth thoughtfully are successful, and pointed to Lone Tree as an example, having added light rail stops before development occurred. “Amazon,” he said, “is looking at the investments communities are making and the investments communities aren’t making.”
Kellie Kelly is the business development and strategy director for Kiewit Corporation, a construction and engineering organization that began in 1884, and now operates in the United States, Canada and Mexico. She said, “Denver was the natural choice for Kiewit’s investment in a regional campus (to) meet the growing demand for our services.” They chose Lone Tree, Kelly said, because, “Our convenient location within the RidgeGate community provides current and future employees with the proximity to housing and multiple transportation options, including easy access to I-25 and the Light Rail, which is right outside our front door.”
Kiewit has been in Colorado since the 1930’s and has played a significant role in the construction of the Eisenhower Tunnel, Glenwood Canyon, the Veterans’ Administration Hospital in Aurora, the T-REX project that expanded I-25 in metro Denver, and Union Station. They currently lead the Central 70 project, a 10-mile reconstruction of I-70 between Brighton Boulevard and Chambers Road.
The regional headquarters of Kiewit has room for 1,775 employees. The company has partnered with CU, CSU, and Colorado School of Mines, “To train and develop the next generation of construction and engineering leaders, who we hope will one day join us on this campus.” Kiewit has committed to offering $10 million in scholarships to CU engineering students.