According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Colorado’s population now tops five million. Coloradans are one of the nation’s most educated populations, ranking second among the 50 states for percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher, and Colorado is home to four major research universities. The state has strong and diverse industry clusters especially in the areas of aerospace, bioscience and medical devices, food and agriculture, energy and natural resources, information and technology. These factors make up Colorado’s strong economic foundation.
Over the past year, Colorado’s emerging innovation climate has been touted across the nation. The 2011 Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity listed Colorado as fifth for the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the United States, with 450 new business owners per 100,000 adults. Earlier this year, MoneyTree named Colorado the fourth leading destination for Early-Stage Venture Capital Investment, the U.S. Chamber listed Colorado number two for the 2012 top 10 states for entrepreneurship and innovation, and StartUpHire listed Colorado as first for growth in the startup job sector, as the state saw a 170 percent increase in startup jobs between 2010 and 2011. In addition, The Beacon Hill Institute issues an annual report on state competitiveness and Colorado has consistently ranked in the top ten, and was assigned the number three spot in 2011. In particular, Colorado’s strength in technology, an innovation-dependent industry, was cited as a contributing factor to the strong ranking (Beacon Hill).
Cultivating innovation is the key to creating new jobs and growing a more competitive, dynamic and resilient economy in Colorado. The Colorado Innovation Network (COIN) is a primary catalyst to spur innovation and growth in Colorado by supporting business activities and establishing Colorado as the most innovative state in the country. This report, presented by COIN, is among the first steps taken towards this mission.
The focus of this inaugural report is on where Colorado stands in comparison to the nation as a whole and seven other benchmark states, with respect to one particular asset – innovation. The seven benchmark states used to compare Colorado with are Arizona, California, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Utah. These benchmark states were chosen either because they are known as innovative hotbeds, such as North Carolina or California, or because, like Utah and Arizona, they are regional neighbors with close geographic and economic ties. This two-tiered approach to benchmarking is important in that it compares Colorado against its regional peers, and also provides a point of reference against what it can aspire to be. The key metrics and graphs use the most up-to-date publicly available data, and when possible compare the current measure against an anchor year (usually 2000 unless otherwise noted). In that sense, the bar charts map the COIN metrics in three contrasting dimensions: relative to the United States, across the peer group states, and over time. Benchmarking the state measures to the U.S. also helps control for broader business cycles, including the intervening two recessions.