By Jason Kosena
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
The economy is looking better. The recession may be ending. But it’s still too early to start celebrating.
That was the message from former U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow to a group of 1,500 Coloradans gathered Tuesday for the Aurora Economic Development Council’s annual “A-List” luncheon. The event was presented by Accelerate Colorado, an affiliate of the Aurora EDC that lobbies on behalf of Colorado’s business community.
“Are we coming out of this? I think we’re beginning to,” said Snow, who served in the cabinet of President George W. Bush from 2003 to 2006 and who now chairs New York-based Cerberus Capital Management.
In a speech delivered without notes to an attentive crowd, Snow said the nation may experience a short-term economic surge in coming months then dip back into a recession. This pattern — known as the “W” effect because the economy goes down then up then down again — is similar to what happened under President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression and again in the 1980s after the collapse of the savings and loan industry.
“We’re clearly not out of the woods yet,” he said.
Snow also warned the Who’s-Who list of Colorado business and political leaders who were in attendance that America could be harmed by deflation, one possible consequence of a lengthy ongoing recession. As people make less money and work to save every dollar, they cut down on spending, and retailers cut prices to lure them back into the stores.
Economists disagree on whether deflation will be the next major problem facing America. Everyone, however, seems to agree that massive federal spending of borrowed currency is going to have a drastic effect on the nation’s recovery.
Snow, who said he understands why the Obama administration saw the need to use federal funding to boost spending through the National Recovery and Reinvestment Act, said he also understands that the government is toeing a thin line by using so much borrowed currency to fund it.
“Government support, I think, has to continue. It’s essential,” Snow said. “But at some point we’ll need to begin to disengage from all the government support, government ownership, government control, and the huge deficits that lead to rising interest rates.”
The luncheon wasn’t only about Snow’s visit to Denver though.
Before Snow’s keynote address, Gov. Bill Ritter and Wendy Mitchell, president and CEO of the Aurora Economic Development Council, presented leadership awards to Democratic U.S. Sens. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, and Michael Bennet, D-Denver, and U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, of the 1st Congressional District, Betsy Markey, of the 4th Congressional District; Ed Perlmutter, of the 7th Congressional District; and to Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, of the 5th Congressional District. The other members of Colorado’s congressional delegation were also honored in the joint award, although Reps. Jared Polis, John Salazar and Mike Coffman did not attend the event.
The leadership awards were given to members of the entire Colorado delegation for their work in Washington, D.C., to help promote the state in its drive toward a new energy economy. “We really do find ourselves at the cutting edge of all of the new renewable energy technologies,” Udall said. “Whether it’s solar, the sequestration of carbon, or the role natural gas plays in becoming a bridge fuel and helping us respond to climate change and global security… renewable energy will be a big part of the future of our state.”
DeGette, the longest serving congressional member in Colorado, said she believes that although the state’s delegation is small, its members accomplishes a lot in Washington, and she singled out Lamborn as a good colleague to have in the House.
Lamborn returned the bipartisan compliment to DeGette.
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“We do work together well as a delegation. We have the same goals, despite our party differences, of a stronger more prosperous economy in Colorado,” he said.
Lamborn, the only Republican in a room full of Democrats, made it a point to express his discontent with the current health care reform moving through Congress.
“On health care, I would rather have a more targeted approach to getting health care to all Americans,” Lamborn said. “But we do share the same goal and the same needs.”
Markey, a small business owner, spent most of her speech talking about running a business. After explaining how her political insights were informed by those challenges, she told stories of her children working behind the counter at her coffee shop in Fort Collins and spoke of the pride she takes in the software development company she and her husband founded two decades ago.
“It’s easy to vilify businesses today, but it’s not right,” Markey said. “They are members of our community.”
The Aurora Economic Development Council is a partnership between business and government, creating new jobs through strategic alliances and by advocating for economically sustainable public policy. The Council is comprised of the leading 100 companies in the metro area.
Accelerate Colorado, the presenting sponsor of the event, was launched by the Council earlier this year to increase Colorado’s presence at the federal level. In April, the group traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Colorado’s congressional delegation about statewide issues. They also had meetings with key federal leaders, including Brig. General Mark Schissler, director for cyber operations for the U.S. Air Force who told them that Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs is one of six finalists for the location of the 24th Air Force.
More than 150 tables at the event were sold for $2,000 each. Platinum sponsors of the event were Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, Citywide Banks, Comcast, Colorado Lending Source, Merrick & Co., Oakwood Homes and Victory Lane.