Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Thursday, December 11, 1997

Denver is thriving
despite its location

IN a world where railheads and ports are no longer the key determinants of where major cities grow, businesses have more choice as to where to locate, "think industries" in particular.

This can be an advantage to Hawaii with our great climate, great natural beauty and multi-ethnic community able to help people from both East and West feel comfortable here. It can be a great help toward building a strong economy despite setbacks in tourism (of which the Asia financial crisis may bring more) and the sharp decline in old agricultural mainstays like sugar and pineapple.

Recently I revisited Denver. It has an improbable location at the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains. No ports or major rail transshipment points here -- not even any great agricultural industries. No more gold rush. Its climate is capable of replicating at least three seasons all in one day.

Yet Forbes magazine recently nominated Denver as the second-best city in America for headquartering a business, after New York. President Clinton chose it as the meeting place for the 1997 annual gathering of the world's great economic powers.

Its real estate values are going up. In head-to-head competition it has two morning newspapers each selling more than 300,000 copies in Colorado each day -- the tabloid Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post. Denver and suburbs total close to 2 million people.

The vitality of the area suggests that Denver and Colorado are doing some things right. I guess that includes Denver International Airport, newest and costliest of all U.S. airports, even though its tremendous number of start-up problems drove some travelers to divert to Colorado Springs Airport to the south.

It definitely includes inner-city revitalization. Coors Stadium, the home of the Rockies major league baseball team, is a key draw in upgrading LoDo, or Lower Downtown. Historic preservationists (and restorers) have done some great things here. The city also has the Denver Broncos in the National Football league, the Nuggets in basketball and the Avalanche in hockey.

In the foothills of the Rockies only a half hour drive away, out past Golden, where Coors beer is made, are a number of casino towns. But the big draws to Colorado are the magnificent Rocky Mountains scenery and recreation areas.

A great Denver amenity is the conversion of a mile of 16th Street, a major backbone between LoDo and the state capitol district, into a free bus mall. Trams pass each stop every few minutes. It is in reach of most hotels, a lot of shopping and not far from the new convention center and performing arts complex.

Thus life in Denver can be a winner, even if the weather may not always be. There is no serious theatre to match New York on a year-round basis but I'll put the dioramas at the Denver Museum of Natural History into the ranks of the best you will see anywhere.

There's a gathering of animals at a Botswana, Africa, watering hole where you seem to see for miles and almost think you can walk into. You also enter remote parts of the high Rockies in other exhibit halls, see the terrain, animals and birds up close.

WHAT lessons do I see for us in Hawaii? Certainly we should build on our East-West position, our educational assets, our potential for scientific research in all the areas from the ocean bottoms to deep space, and high tech to flesh out our key tourism and military industries.

I have a hunch a free bus-line through Waikiki could be a winner. Maybe even a downtown one would bring more appreciation of our 19th-century historic buildings, Capitol Center, Hawaii Wall Street, our port and Chinatown.

In past years, Denver even ran some ads calling itself the Hub of the Pacific! Let's not let them get away with that kind of stuff. Let's challenge them with a renewed vitality of our own.

A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.

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