Tom Clark of Metro Denver: Regionalism as a key to transformation

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ROCKFORD, June 1 — More than 100 people turned out at the Nordlof Center to hear a Transform Rockford Community Conversation about how regionalism can lead the way to becoming a Top 25 community.

Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., is a nationally recognized leader for this approach in a city that rallied from poorly ranked 30 years ago to highly desired today. Clark shared some of the key elements of regional success:

1. A big tent, because “good ideas come from anywhere.”

2. A vision for your region as well as the vision of how others see you.

3. A code of ethics for regional partners that “sells the region first, our communities second” and that outlines open, respectful communication.

4. A way to build infrastructure during downturns. Companies don’t watch where you are; they watch where you’re going. “You can have a really crappy place, but if you’re doing something about it, people know you’re thinking.”

5. Political support from and for local elected officials.

6. A “leadership development plan” that engages new young leaders in their 20s, 30s and 40s into the civic fabric.

7. A “servant leader” organization that courageously touts collaboration and measures its successes. “Sometimes you have to be the guardian at the gate of regionalism.”

8. A commitment to making downtown “a vibrant urban center.”

Metro Denver is the nation’s first regional economic development entity, bringing together over 70 cities, counties and economic development agencies in a nine-county area.

What are the results of such large-scale cooperation in Denver?

• One of the top 10 fastest-growing cities in the nation (Forbes, 2015).
• The third-best city for college graduates, based on job potential, percentage of millennials, lifestyle and unemployment rate (, 2015).
• One of the top 10 best cities to relocate to (Sperling’s Best Places, 2014).

Even though “everyone gets their say, but not everyone gets their way,” regionalism is a transformational model for success.

Watch for the June 1 Community Conversation video here.
Stay up to date on the overall movement on the Transform Rockford website.
And to learn more about Metro Denver, go to

tom clark mike schablaske mike nicholas

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