Colorado’s “Wall Street of the West”

CoBank’s national headquarters makes a strong statement along the I-25 corridor. It is located on the plaza near the Arapahoe light rail station in Greenwood Village.

The expanding financial-services sector in the south I-25 corridor

BY JAN WONDRA
STAFF WRITER

For longer than there has been an I-25 corridor, the nine-county region (Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, Larimer and Weld) metro Denver and northern Colorado region, and specifically 17th Street in Denver, has been called “the Wall Street of the West.” Within this geographic area lies the largest concentration of financial services entities between Los Angeles and Chicago. It is home to a branch of the Federal Reserve Bank and the Denver Mint.

“It’s huge,” says Mike Fitzgerald, CEO of the Denver South Economic Development Partnership (DSEDP). “The impact of financial services located along the corridor spreads across the entire state, the nation and around the world.”

The metro Denver region continues to represent the greatest, most concentrated financial corridor outside of the northeastern U.S. It is home to three distinct financial sub-clusters, rare outside the northeastern seaboard: investments, banking and finance, and insurance. Together those three segments employ more than 30,240 employees across 2,270 companies.

The economic significance of such a huge financial services presence has a direct impact on the regions gross business product. Whereas in 2015 the sector accounted for some 26 percent of the state’s gross business income, today that figure stands close to 30 percent of the state’s gross business product. Translated that means that three of every $10 of the state’s business output is directly attributable to the financial services category.

A significant portion of recent category progress has occurred in the south I-25 corridor in the past 24 months. Consider this: the global headquarters of Western Union which has called Denver south home for many years, is completing a new headquarters at Belleview and I-25, in the vibrant Belleview station area. A deceptively quiet Visa global technology center in Douglas County continues to grow. CoBank, the nation’s largest agribusiness bank completed its new, 245,000 sq. ft. headquarters right along I-25 in Greenwood Village.

“Obviously, we chose the location to be in the midst of the energy here,” said CEO Bob Engel. “A lot of financial institutions are here in the corridor.”

While the energy is growing on the south end of the metro area, just to the north Denver downtown is home to a regional Federal Reserve and the Denver Mint, one of only six U.S. Mints. Never mind that it prints pennies; the fact is that here we make money… more coins than any mint in the world.

According to the DSEDP, one-third of all financial services employment in the nine-county area is within the area of the southern I-25 corridor. These are well-paying jobs, with an average salary of $71,210, compared to the category’s national average of $69,320. Given that this includes jobs from bank tellers to bond traders, all financial-services jobs are not equal. The average annual salary in the investments sub area exceeds $193,000, while the average in banking and finance is $73,860, and for insurance, it stands at $69,830.

Charles Swab’s Lone Tree campus encompasses 47 acres and at full build-out will be accessed by 4,500 employees. File photo

The economic impact of financial-services jobs within our region was already in excess of $2.8 billion in 2012 when we were continuing to climb out of the recession. Given Colorado’s robust economic recovery, and zero unemployment, that figure is rising substantially.

Many of the area’s financial institutions continue to add office space and employees. By the end of 2018, Fidelity Investments will have expanded its Greenwood Village workforce by another 300 employees. The company has acquired 30,000 square feet of office space to be added to its existing 100,000-square-foot space and will invest $5 million to expand its facility.

Insurance brokerage firm Holmes Murphy & Associates, based in Des Moines, Iowa, opened an office in Greenwood Village. It is among the top 100 insurance brokers in the U.S.

Bank of America opened its second Metro Denver retail store in the Highlands Ranch Tower Center South. The branch features banking, lending services, retirement planning and small business banking.

First California Mortgage Company plans call for consolidating and expanding its office in the Greenwood Village Tech Center, relocating to a 9,800 square foot office at 8490 E. Crescent Parkway. The office will be home to the Denver support services for its network of loan officers and retail branches.

Why is the financial services sector, expanding in our geographic area? It is expanding, in part, because of our reputation as what the DSEDP calls “as a global commercial gateway.” This business corridor is a place where the combination of a highly educated workforce, an entrepreneurial mindset, strong business schools, access to transportation, business-friendly government, and great quality of life come together. Add to that: access to capital for startups and global expansion.

Not only are financial businesses clustered here, but the professional development and education sectors are responding to the growing workforce need. The University of Colorado Boulder and Charles Schwab Corp. have created a five-year partnership with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) program. Charles Schwab gave the college a donation to start a scholarship fund that will create coursework and assist with exam preparations. The program is expected to attract more than 80 students and the program will help fill a need for more CFP’s in the region.

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