Hickenlooper makes campaign swing through Grand County | SkyHiNews.com

Hickenlooper makes campaign swing through Grand County

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, CO Colorado

Former brew-pub proprietor and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, the Democratic candidate for Colorado governor, started out life as “a skinny kid with acne and thick glasses,” he said during a visit to Grand County on Monday.

The visit consisted of stops in Kremmling, Granby and the Fraser Valley.

He prides himself for having been raised with real lessons in frugality from his single mom. His dad died when he was 7.

Later in life, Hickenlooper used that self-described geeky frugality – coupled with a knack for business – to his advantage. It took him two years, he said, to raise the money to open a now popular Denver pub called the Wynkoop. Part of his strategy to get people to come to the downtown area was to advertise for his competitors, he said.

Hickenlooper was at the ground floor with other partners in transforming downtown historic buildings into popular brew pubs, like the Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs and CooperSmith’s Pub and Brewing in Fort Collins – businesses that became the springboard for several endeavors in multiple states.

As part of Hickenlooper’s four-day campaign tour of northwest Colorado, he toured the Confluence Energy plant in Kremmling. The Denver mayor had set out to explore a series of businesses in northwestern Colorado that are poised to be economic drivers, although many still face, he learned, financing roadblocks.

He said he also knows the government bureaucracy business owners face. Case in point, the Small Business Administration, which was a target of discussion during a small gathering at Maverick’s Grille in downtown Granby.

“The SBA is a joke,” Hickenlooper said, prompted by a question from Granby Mayor Jynnifer Pierro. “They’ll give $80 million to fund Goldman Sachs, but then they’re afraid to lose $2 (million) or $3 million to fund the small businesses,” he said. “Why are they funding the guys that failed?”

An educated geologist, the Philadelphia native who worked as an exploration geologist in Colorado until he was laid off during the recession in the 1980s, was elected as Denver’s mayor in 2003 and was re-elected in 2007. He sold off partnerships is his restaurant businesses three years ago.

Hickenlooper highlighted his achievement in getting Front Range mayors behind the FasTracks initiative that was ultimately passed. He also explained how Denver homelessness decreased by 60 percent through investments in rehabilitation.

Hickenlooper’s approach to water, he said, can start with Front Range residents. Under his watch, the Denver mayor said he cut per-capita consumption by 20 percent. And more can be done with educating Front Range residents about the value West Slope water has to their own property values and lifestyle.

The same could be said for transportation, according to Hickenlooper. Fixing I-70 will take the participation of Front Range residents, who need to realize the importance mountain communities have for their own lives. An initial idea the Denver mayor said he would explore would be providing incentives to truckers to stay off I-70 on Fridays and Sundays, a concept applied on some European roadways.

And as far as Colorado’s budget, the gubernatorial candidate, who says he’s for “small government,” said he would examine efficiencies in state government before unleashing more cuts in education.

“My mother raised four Democrats, and she’s very proud of that,” Hickenlooper said. “But a lot of people don’t refer to me as a democrat because once the election is over, we’re all in it together. And at that point, I become non-partisan.”

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

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