As head of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., Tom Clark typically can judge whether Colorado will have a positive year economically based on when his phone rings in January.

If a company seeking to move to Colorado calls him prior to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it bodes well for the state.

This year, he received two such calls Jan. 2 and three more the following two days.

"It's going to be a very, very good year," Clark said Wednesday as he addressed a crowd of 200 regional businesspeople and elected officials at the "2013 Economic Forecast: Boulder and Beyond" event in Boulder.

Clark joined Ken Lund, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and Clif Harald, CEO of the Boulder Economic Council, for a discussion on "moving the economy forward" in 2013.

Lund cited progress on Gov. John Hickenlooper's Colorado Blueprint efforts to build a comprehensive state economic development plan through regional collaboration and focus on 14 key industries. Among those are seven "advanced industries" -- including energy, electronics, aerospace and bioscience -- that account for nearly 20 percent of the state's businesses and employ 19 percent of the state's workforce.

The proposed House Bill 13-1001 could bolster those advanced industries, which have significant hubs in the Boulder region, he said. The bipartisan bill provides for grants to industry members seeking funding for research and development, retention and infrastructure and also encourages collaboration between industries through an incentive.


"(HB 1001 could) be a very powerful growth accelerator, if you will, for those sectors," Lund said.

From 2006 to 2011, industries such as medical devices, aerospace, healthcare, wellness, fossil fuels, cleantech and pharmaceuticals recorded growth, with cleantech posting the biggest gains, Clark said.

"In 2008, cleantech was the only horse we had to ride," he said. "We got lucky, and we took advantage of being lucky."

The gains in that sector are expected to continue, he said, noting consumers are driving companies' sustainability efforts.

Boulder's diverse business base helped vault the city to a "robust" 2012, and the city and region are poised for similar returns this year, Harald said.

Harald, however, was quick to caution that several challenges still could persist and hinder future economic growth. These include: vulnerability in research and education investment; low commercial and industrial vacancy rates within Boulder city limits; and employee mobility concerns.

He stressed the importance of continued investment in business development efforts, highlighting the city's flexible rebate incentive program.

"If 2013 is that and more, I worry about complacency in taking some of this vibrancy for granted," he said.

Contact Camera Business Writer Alicia Wallace at 303-473-1332 or