What if the Boom Doesn't Bust?
[Guest author: Phillips V. Bradford,Sc.D., Director, Colorado Advanced Technology Institute]
Observers of Colorado's economy are seeing record performance in most of the usual measures of success. However, along with the records being made in such financial measures as Gross State Product (GSP), population, and employment; there are also records being set in automobile traffic, electric power consumption, water use and housing costs.
Some observers note that past peaks in these indicators have been followed by declines. This is known as the "boom and bust" character of Colorado's historical record, often associated with economic cycles of natural resource based industries. These observers might expect that the problems >associated with traffic congestion or the cost of one's "starter home" will decline in the inevitable relapse of the economy, and we should not worry ourselves about committing additional public resources to support infrastructural elements. But, what if the boom doesn't stop here? Let us suppose that the economic and population growth not only continues, but accelerates through the next several decades. A high technology based economy, something like a "Silicon Valley" phenomenon may be in the making in Colorado's Front Range. It could portend a new growth paradigm and require a new model for forecasting the needs for public infrastructure in the near future.
Perhaps the limits of Colorado's growth in economic vitality and population are not so closely tied to the comparative infrastructural limits of other places in the U.S. Perhaps we will enter a new age where it is acceptable for our newcomers to wait in traffic jams for 45 minutes to get from the inner suburbs to downtown and pay $25-40 to park for a half-day. Perhaps Colorado is indeed sufficiently attractive to so many people that it will grow all the faster as it acquires more attractive things. The bar is being raised to accept some of the inconveniences associated with economic growth in order to have its benefits. After all the traffic jams and brown-outs are now a fact, and there is no sign that either public or private interests are willing to make the necessary investments to significantly ameliorate the situation. If population movements responded to the equivalent of Dalton's law of partial pressures, there would be a tendency for population density to equilibrate over different geographical areas. If Colorado had the same population density as New Jersey, it would be home for almost 100 million people, and perhaps that represents the new limit for which we should expect and plan infrastructural support.
Perhaps the time has come to set aside some appropriate space for high-rise development, high-speed rapid transit, long distance aqueducts, and yes - even nuclear power plants for our future. Can anyone make the case that Chicago, for example, is a better place to be than Denver without invoking the argument that one can make a better living there with a given set of skills? The advent of high rise construction, electrified rapid transit, long distance aqueducts, and even nuclear power, if properly designed and engineered, would also have positive ramifications for satisfying our environmental responsibilities, especially when viewed on a per capita basis.
Who among us is prepared to face our future under the scenario of rapid growth? Are we ready for it? The official projections of economic and population growth have been consistently below the mark. Perhaps the models under which they are derived are outmoded. Perhaps they do not adequately account for the numerous multiplicative mechanisms that operate in a high tech economy. Presently, it seems that the risks of underestimating Colorado's growth are greater than the risks of overestimating it.
Headlines from the September/October edition of Technology Community
Page 2 Trade Mission to Spain
Page 3 Data Briefs on Federal R&D Funding
Page 4 OUT IN FRONT -- CU's University Technology Corporation Sets New Records
Page 5 New Material Science Program
Page 6 ABOUT TOWN -- Colorado Springs Company Selected
Page 7 TEMI Announces SBIR Phase I Grant Awards
Page 8 COLUMNS & NEWS -- CATI Catalyst
Page 9 CU- Business Advancement Center
T2 Society- Colorado Chapter
Page 10 NICE3 Proposal for 1999
Page 11 TIPS & TREASURES -- Year 2000 Web Sites
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