Jan 3, 2022 - News

Denver business leaders wary as Colorado lawmakers return to Capitol

 J.J. Ament. Photo courtesy of Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
J.J. Ament. Photo courtesy of Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce

Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO J.J. Ament said the greatest challenge facing the local economy is not the coronavirus.

Driving the news: It's new laws being enacted at the Democratic-controlled state Capitol.

"Public policy is still the greatest risk to Colorado's economy," Ament said in an interview with Axios Denver.

Why it matters: The warning is aimed at state lawmakers who return to the Capitol next week for the start of the legislative session.

What he's saying: Ament, a former Republican candidate for treasurer, took the job as the metro area's top business promoter in September and is a key liaison to Capitol power brokers.

  • He expressed specific worry about a slip in the state's CNBC business ranking and the need for more infrastructure investment from the state legislature.
  • Other concerns involve rule-making within the administration of Gov. Jared Polis, such as pay equity rules and carbon-emissions reduction efforts, that impact businesses.

"There is this level of political complacency that comes with having an economy that has been this good for this long," Ament said. "So we take for granted what it takes to be attractive or competitive in the marketplace."

Context: Colorado's economy is forecast to expand in 2022, but job growth will take more than a year to rebound from the pandemic, as we recently wrote.

The other side: House Speaker Alec Garnett (D-Denver) told Axios that the best approach is to "forge those solutions together and not just point fingers at each other."

  • He added: "The Colorado Legislature has stepped up in ways on issues that the chamber has struggled to lead on by itself."

Between the lines: In representing the interests of major businesses, the chamber has often clashed with the state Legislature, even when his predecessor Kelly Brough, a former chief of staff to the Democratic mayor, was at the helm.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that J.J. Ament is a former Republican candidate for state treasurer, not governor.

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