What Colorado Local Governments Need to Know About Small Cells

Wireless technology continues to play a more integral role in our lives. Smartphones and other connected devices – from navigation systems to fitness trackers – allow us to stream videos, get directions, monitor our activity, conduct business, and stay in touch with our loved ones. They also keep us safe. In the U.S., nearly 80% of adults own smartphones and more than 80% of 911 calls are made with wireless devices. Access to mobile technology is no longer a luxury—it is a necessity for citizens and first responders as well as local government officials, who all depend on wireless connectivity daily.

A survey by the National Center for Health Statistics found that over 50% of American households are wireless only, and of households with landlines, 38% report receiving all or almost all calls on wireless devices. Additionally, Cisco predicts that mobile data traffic will increase sevenfold between 2016 and 2021, which is due largely in part to the “Internet of Things” (IoT). As our world becomes increasingly connected, it is critical for local governments in Colorado and across the country to understand how wireless technology – specifically, “small cell” solutions – will expand cellular coverage and network capacity, and serve as the backbone for 5G and IoT.

Small cell solutions are smaller than traditional towers or rooftop installations and are often installed on existing right-of-way infrastructure like street signs, telephone poles, or streetlights. They are being deployed successfully all over Colorado. Many cities and counties have collaborative relationships and signed agreements in place to ensure a streamlined deployment process. When local governments understand the public benefits of working collaboratively with infrastructure providers, deployment is swift and the outcome is a more connected, safer community.

One example of a successful collaboration between a local government and an infrastructure provider is when Crown Castle, the nation’s largest communications infrastructure company, deployed small cells in support of the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championship in Vail, CO. Public safety officials and other stakeholders, led by the state of Colorado FirstNet team, wanted a wireless infrastructure solution that was capable of supporting 4G LTE applications to monitor activities during the event. Crown Castle worked closely with the state of Colorado to set up a public safety network demonstration that enabled officials to test applications in practical situations, including real-time video, push-to-talk, Voice over IP (VoIP), situational awareness, and others. The network was designed to improve wireless coverage and provide much needed data capacity while preserving the beauty of Vail.

As part of a larger, nationwide small cell deployment effort, Crown Castle is currently upgrading Denver’s existing wireless infrastructure by deploying a robust small cell network and over 130 new miles of lightning-fast fiber optic cable that will pave the way for next-generation networks such as 5G, which promise to turn innovations including autonomous vehicles and citywide data sharing into reality. Working closely in partnership with city staff, Crown Castle intends to enable improved wireless broadband service while keeping Denver’s character intact.

Scott Harry is the West Region Government Relations Manager for Crown Castle.

Transportation Solutions

Transportation is front and center in the minds of our legislators, business leaders, workforce, and families all across the state. A robust and well-maintained surface transportation network- including roads and bridges, public transit and rail systems- has been essential to America’s economic success and dynamism. Growing frustration continues to mount as bipartisan solutions have been elusive. Colorado’s population continues to swell and our congestion woes mount. Studies estimate traffic congestion cost Americans $124 billion, a number projected to rise to $185 billion by 2030. By 2030, the average American household is expected to incur traffic-related costs of $2,301 per year, a 33% increase compared to 2013.

Solutions have been caught up in partisan politics and differing interests. Various stakeholders have advanced ideas from specific ownership taxes, raising the gas tax, an increase in sales tax, and bonding among others. A bipartisan approach didn’t have the support of enough legislators last year to make it out of the legislature and on to voters. This year, SB-1 has been introduced, and once again, it appears to be destined to a similar partisan demise.

Colin Powell once stated, “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” There is a solution, a path forward that will create a win for business, workers, and communities all across Colorado.

Industry and associations aligning ourselves behind competing measures have dampened our ability to ensure a successful solution with Colorado voters. Taking multiple initiatives to the ballot will create confusion, doubt and not generate the critical buy-in and support necessary for a successful answer to Colorado’s transit needs.

As leaders, we need to put forth the types of solutions that can be successful and help move Colorado forward. We owe it our constituents, members, workforce, and future generations to craft a solution that will garner bipartisan support and also voter enthusiasm -and votes-in November. While other solutions may exist, the Colorado Business Roundtable is putting forth the following proposal that combines the various stakeholder interests, addresses Colorado’s pressing issues, and provides a new, sustainable, and long-term funding source. 

Colorado’s transportation solution should incorporate a two-pronged approach. First, pass SB-1 and use the benefits of bonding general fund dollars to provide direct relief for some of Colorado’s most urgent needs. Bonding will allow us to take advantage of low interest rates and today’s construction costs. While an important first step, it only addresses the 35% of the state’s transportation shortfall, necessitating a second step. At the appropriate time, we put forth a new, dedicated funding source that will provide critical O&M dollars and money for local transit projects, and communities. Coordinating the timing of ballot questions, combing resources and building a successful coalition should be the focus of a successful transportation system for Coloradans.

We have the leadership to get this accomplished. Unifying around a common, coordinated plan is not only the right approach, it is the only winning approach to provide Coloradans with an efficient, safe, and reliable transportation system. Fix Colorado Roads, with the support of ALL coalition stakeholders, can take the lead on bonding and the Denver Chamber and Coloradans for Coloradans collation, with support of ALL coalition stakeholders can continue to lead on new, sustainable funding source. We must align efforts, present a united front, and work together. That is indeed the Colorado way, and the right formula for this critical, economic imperative.

With thanks,
Jeff Wasden
President, Colorado Business Roundtable

The Internet Remains Open and Free

Author: Roberta Robinette, AT&T Colorado President

If you are like me and follow news about the internet, you have no doubt seen the screaming headlines about net neutrality and the Federal Communications Commission. Contrary to what made those headlines so clickable, the FCC did not radically change how the internet operates.  Rather, the FCC did right by consumers by returning to the light-touch regulatory framework that allowed the internet to thrive from 1996-2015.  That bipartisan light touch framework successfully protected consumers and governed the internet from its inception more than 20 years ago until 2015.  Over the decades, the internet grew, innovation exploded, and the nation witnessed unprecedented investment.

In 2015, then-Chairman Wheeler’s FCC took the radical and unprecedented step of subjecting the internet for the first time to 80 year old public utility regulations that were written for the technology and the marketplace from a bygone era that the internet has largely replaced – monopoly telephone service.  These rules slowed broadband deployment nationwide, especially in rural and underserved communities.  Additionally, the application of these decades-old common carrier reporting requirements and the specter of further regulatory micromanagement overwhelmed small internet service providers and reduced their longer-term incentives to invest in the next generation broadband technologies necessary for a 21st century economy. Overall broadband investment has dropped by billions of dollars since 2015 – a first in the absence of a recession.

With so much emotion and hyperbole surrounding the net neutrality issue, it’s important to be aware of the existing consumer protections and antitrust laws that continue to keep the internet open and free:

·       Federal regulators have ample authority to police and enforce compliance with the FCC’s rules, including the requirement for ISPs to accurately disclose any blocking, throttling, and/or prioritization practices. The FCC has authority to bring enforcement actions – and impose significant penalties – if it were to find a provider’s blocking, throttling or prioritization practices to be inconsistent with the provider’s disclosures.

·       The FCC also monitors the broadband market and identifies market entry barriers by, among other activities, reviewing informal complaints filed by consumers, and will investigate and take enforcement action as appropriate with respect to failures to comply with the Internet Freedom Order.

·       Antitrust laws protect competition in all sectors of the economy where the antitrust agencies have jurisdiction. Application of these strong, enforceable antitrust laws would address any of the hypothetical harms, should any ever materialize. If internet service providers were, contrary to the history of the internet and their own business interests, to enter into agreements to unfairly block, throttle, or discriminate against internet conduct or applications, they could be subject to enforcement under anti-trust laws. Applying the same body of law to internet service providers, edge providers, and all internet actors avoids regulatory distortions.

·       State attorneys general also have authority in appropriate cases to enforce state unfair competition and consumer protection laws against internet service providers.

Despite these existing protections, some people are pushing for legislation that would regulate the internet at the state and local level.  But the internet does not stop at the state line or city limit.  State and local laws to regulate the internet are not only unnecessary, they would also do more harm than good by discouraging investment and putting a drag on the economy.   It’s not hard to imagine how a patchwork of inconsistent regulations – from potentially 50 different states and countless municipalities – would fracture the internet, confuse consumers, and harm competition. And, just like the burdensome 2015 FCC Order, such regulation would stifle investment—investment that we know is a key component to a thriving Colorado economy. 

The internet is too important to our lives, our economy and our future to be subject to ever-changing political winds.  AT&T Chairman Randall Stephenson recently emphasized that, ultimately, congressional action is needed to establish an "Internet Bill of Rights" that applies to all internet companies and guarantees neutrality, transparency, openness, non-discrimination and privacy protection for all internet users.  Federal legislation would not only ensure consumers' rights are protected, but it would provide consistent rules of the road for all internet companies across all websites, content, devices and applications.

In the very near future, technological advances like self-driving cars, remote surgery and augmented reality will demand even greater performance from the internet. Without predictable rules for how the internet works, it will be difficult to meet the demands of these new technology advances.

3-part series on the latest Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Investor Pulse Poll

PART ONE:

This is the first in a 3-part series on the latest Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Investor Pulse Poll.

Most Americans Say They Are on Track to Realize Their Financial Goals – Are You One of Them?

Americans are confident they are on track to achieve their long-term financial goals, according to the latest Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Investor Pulse Poll. The poll surveyed 1,000 U.S. households of high net worth individuals, a third of which had investible assets of $1 million or more.

Ninety-one percent of those polled believe they are on the right path to achieve their long-term financial goals, the top three being saving for retirement, transitioning wealth to the next generation, and paying off a mortgage.

Among those ages 40+ and more secure vs. 20s

Among those ages 30+

While nearly every high net worth investor is somewhat, if not very, happy with their financial situation today, they, too, have financial concerns like the rest of us. What keeps them up at night? Maintaining wealth throughout their lifetime with the same standard of living, having money for retirement and unexpected medical costs were some of high net worth investors’ top concerns. Nearly 90 percent of middle-aged or older investors wish they would have started saving for their goals sooner— with about half of that pointing to retirement in particular.

The state of the economy and the investment climate

The survey also gauged investors’ sentiment toward the broader economy, especially given we are experiencing fairly strong economic growth in the U.S. and globally. With the market highs and milestones we’ve crossed lately, investors are watching closely to see if the steady growth will change any time soon. Based on Morgan Stanley’s projections, we expect 2018 could be another good year for our economy, though investor sentiment is split.

The Investor Pulse Poll shows investors are almost evenly divided between those believing it will be a good time to invest and those who are neutral, with only a minority predicting this year will be bad for investments.

Erring on the side of caution, Morgan Stanley is advising investors to consider classic performers such as energy, industrials and tech. These sectors have been working well lately thanks, in part, to the return of capital spending and higher oil prices.

Stocks or equities are expected to comprise the biggest part of high net worth investors’ portfolios in 2018, especially in the tech industry. Technology is seen as the leading investment sector of 2018, followed by bio-tech and energy.

Investors continue to rely on and leverage these insights from financial professionals to build out their ideal portfolios.

 

PART TWO:

This is the second in a 3-part series on the latest Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Investor Pulse Poll.

The Importance of Financial Planning – Do You Have a Plan?

More than half of high net worth investors in the U.S. currently work with a financial professional. This is according to the latest Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Investor Pulse Poll, which surveyed 1,000 U.S. households of high net worth individuals, a third of which had investible assets of $1 million or more.

Planning is a critical component of reaching your financial goals. To plan for the rest of 2018, start by asking yourself a few questions:

·       Did you meet your 2017 financial goals? Were they feasible? Did anything major distract you from sticking to them that could still be at play?

·       Have you had any major financial changes recently (like a new job or a new home) that would impact your financial plan for 2018? How might you need to adjust your planning to accommodate those changes?

Answering these types of questions will help you see where you can make improvements this year. After reviewing your 2017 goals and identifying changes you want to make in 2018, meet with a financial advisor to discuss adjusting your financial plan. Be sure to write down your 2018 goals so you can reevaluate your progress at the end of the year.

More than half of investors polled want a comprehensive financial plan to help them achieve their financial goals, and professional help to create that plan. They also want advice that supplements any information they may receive from online financial planning tools.

Guidance on asset allocation and retirement is most sought out by those working with a financial professional. However, unmet needs remain around topics such as developing a comprehensive financial plan and wealth transfer. Though often overlooked when seeking professional guidance, investors should consider discussing these topics with a financial advisor as well. Granted, they may be less complicated, yet they are equally important to overall financial success.

 

PART THREE:

This is the third in a 3-part series on the latest Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Investor Pulse Poll.

High Net Worth Millennials Confident About Reaching Their Short-Term Financial Goals – What Are They Optimistic About?

While most Americans report they are on track to achieving their long-term financial goals according to the latest Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Investor Pulse Poll, one group is particularly focused on their short-term financial success – Millennials.

There are more than 80 million millennials in the U.S., making them a large and significant cohort. As for their financial confidence, to a greater degree than high net worth investors overall, high net worth Millennials between the ages of 25 and 35 strongly agree they are on track to reach their short-term goals. However, they are a bit less confident when it comes to achieving their long-term goals. A majority of millennials who were polled cite a range of concerns—from savings and risk levels, to costs associated with aging parents and education for future generations.

Interestingly, the survey showed roughly two in three Millennials currently leverage the insight of a financial professional—more so than investors overall. These Millennials are most interested in market analysis and asset allocation. While interested in digital planning tools, they are even more likely to enlist the support of a certified financial planner to supplement online tools.

High net worth Millennials have far more optimistic expectations for global, national, state, and local economies—roughly 20 or more percentage points higher than high net worth investors across the board on expecting improvement in the next 12 months.

Indeed, Millennials are influential themselves. More so than other generations, Millennials believe in their ability to change the world and are demonstrating this credence through their commitment to giving back and their strong desire to make an impact. In fact, they are driving the sustainable investing movement.

Important information about your relationship with your Financial Advisor and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC when using a Financial Planning tool. When your Financial Advisor prepares a Financial Plan, they will be acting in an investment advisory capacity with respect to the delivery of your Financial Plan. To understand the differences between brokerage and advisory relationships, you should consult your Financial Advisor, or review our Understanding Your Brokerage and Investment Advisory Relationships brochure available at www.morganstanley.com/ourcommitment/.

You have sole responsibility for making all investment decisions with respect to the implementation of a Financial Plan. You may implement the Financial Plan at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC or at another firm. If you engage or have engaged Morgan Stanley, it will act as your broker, unless you ask it, in writing, to act as your investment adviser on any particular account.

The Investor Pulse Poll was conducted by GfK Public Communications and Social Science using the GfK KnowledgePanel. In order to qualify for this study, respondents were required to have $100,000 or more in household liquid investable assets, be between the ages of 25 and 75 years old, and be one of the primary decision makers in the household for financial matters. The Investor Pulse Poll surveyed 1,001 investors between August 15, 2017 and September 7, 2017. An oversample of 202 Millennial investors between the ages of 25-35 was also conducted during this timeframe using a blend of samples from the GfK KnowledgePanel and other online panels. High net worth investors account for 95 percent of total U.S. household investable assets by value, according to Federal Reserve data.

 

Todd Hauer is a Financial Advisor with the Global Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley in Denver. The information contained in this interview is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. The strategies and/or investments referenced may not be suitable for all investors as the appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor's individual circumstances and objectives.  Investing involves risks and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, or its affiliates. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC, member SIPC. CRC 2005043 1/18

 

2018 Colorado Capital Conference

On June 12-14, 2018, one hundred Coloradoans from all walks of life, from all corners of our state—both urban and rural—will attend the Colorado Capital Conference in Washington, D.C.  

Co-hosted by Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), this bipartisan conference provides attendees key insights into how the U.S. government works as well as a chance to hear from and interact with our nation’s leaders.

Betty Bechtel, a Colorado attorney and past participant, says it best: "The number of quality speakers assembled at the conference exceeded my expectations. Not only were we given the opportunity to hear from such high-profile leaders, but we had the chance to interact with them and ask questions of them in an informal, candid setting. Because of this conference, I was able to watch our two U.S. Senators and their staff work together—despite their differences—to bring Coloradoans together. Everyone should experience Washington, D.C. like this once in their lifetime."

Participants are responsible for their own airfare and hotel accommodations (hotel block and room rate offered), plus a non-refundable registration fee, which covers the cost of most meals. Twelve total student scholarships are available to students of our partnering universities: Colorado Mesa University, University of Colorado, and Colorado State University.

Registration closes March 21, 2018. Attendees will be notified of their selection no later than April 16. Apply today!

Questions? Contact Event Coordinator Linde Marshall at 970.623.9388 (cell) or learn more at: Coloradomesa.edu/capital-conference

Key Differences Between House and Senate Tax Plans By Jeff Wasden

President Trump and the Big Six (Speaker Ryan, Senate President McConnell, House Ways and Means Chairman Brady, Senate Finance Chairman Hatch, Treasurer Secretary Mnuchin, and White House Economic Advisor Cohn) earlier released the Unified Framework for Tax Reform that outlined the principles for tax reform. The President has been consistent that any tax plan focus on job creation and higher wages, relief for middle class workers, and a corporate tax rate that was competitive with the rest of the industrial world.

The House release the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which outlined their proposed plan. All week, Ways and Means Committee addressed amendments to initial plan which was passed on a party line vote and moves to the House.

The Senate unveiled their plan on Thursday that has some significant differences than the House plan.

Key differences between House and Senate tax reform plans

  • Brackets: House plan has four brackets, 12%, 25%, 35%, and 39.6. Senate version keeps seven brackets but lowers the rates in brackets 10%, 12%, 22.5%, 25%, 32.5%, 35%, and 38.5%
  • Child tax credit: House increases to $1,600, Senate to $1,650 per child
  • Corporate rate: while both drop the rate to 20%, Senate delays implementation of rate cuts to 2019
  • Estate Tax: House doubles exemption to estates worth more than $10 million next year and completely phases out over six years. Senate doubles the exemption but keeps the tax
  • Major medical expenses: deduction for expenses that exceed 10% of a taxpayer’s income would be eliminated under House plan; Senate plan has no changes
  • Mortgage interest: House bill for new mortgages allows interest on the first $500,000 borrowed for a primary home while interest on second homes and home equity loans would no longer be deductible. The Senate would not change the current limit (first $1 million borrowed) but would end the deduction for home equity loans
  • State and local taxes: House bill would allow a deduction for up to $10,000 in property taxes, but end the deductions for income and sales taxes. Senate version would eliminate all of them
  • Student loan interest: Deduction eliminated by the House, no change in Senate version
  • Teacher purchases: Deductions by teachers who purchase classroom supplies eliminated in House version, no change in Senate plan

Senate plan keeps several deductions listed above (teacher expenses, student loans, medical expenses) as well as items such as adoptions (the House through markups at Ways and Means reinstated the adoption credit)

Some of the biggest changes occurred for pass-through businesses (partnerships, S corps, sole proprietorships) which are currently taxed at the individual tax rates. The Senate version would create a new deduction for those businesses in the low 30’s, well above the 20% corporate rate. Bases on Section 199 domestic manufacturing deduction that would lower the effective tax rate. It would apply to certain domestic non-service pass through income. The House in the initial plan proposed a 25% rate but in many cases, only 30% of a business owner’s income would be eligible for the lower rate with the other 70% classified as wage income. House Ways and Means changed that in committee to include lower tax rates for smaller pass-through businesses. The amendment would create a nine-percent tax rate for the first $75,000 of a married active owner who has less than $150,000 of pass-through income.

tax brackets.png

How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Anyone reading the headlines knows that cyberattacks are on the rise; indeed, malware, viruses, phishing and spam are a menace. Often, hackers infiltrate targeted computer networks to corrupt crucial data files or steal personal, proprietary or financial information.

In fact, a recent Morgan Stanley poll of high net worth investors showed that data security was a leading concern, with some 72 percent saying that identity theft eclipsed other worries such as terrorism (65 percent) and illness (56 percent).

In 2016, six out of every 100 consumers were victims of identity theft. Online card transaction fraud increased by more than 40 percent last year and account takeover fraud increased more than 60 percent.

Here are some steps you can take to help shield you from dangerous cyber threats:

·       Consider signing up for an identity theft protection service. These services provide advanced detection and notification, as well as ongoing regular monitoring across all your accounts. Many of them can also act as a single point of contact to flag and resolve unusual activity.

·       Initiate a fraud alert with any of the three major credit bureaus. This initial security alert notifies potential credit grantors to verify your identification before extending credit in your name.

·       Freeze or lock your credit file with any of the three major credit bureaus. A security freeze is designed to prevent credit, loans and other services that require a credit check from being approved in your name without your consent. No one can access or make changes to your credit report while it’s frozen. You may unfreeze your account temporarily when needed.

·       Monitor your financial accounts. Review your transactions regularly, consider setting up alerts to identify potential fraudulent charges and cancel or freeze cards if you notice unauthorized activity.

·       Use institutions that provide enhanced user/two-factor authentication and proactive account activity review. Ask your bank or financial institution about their investment in cybersecurity and fraud-prevention technology.

·       File your taxes early. Waiting until the last minute to file taxes could give criminals the opportunity to make a fake filing. You should also respond to outreach from the IRS right away.

·       Improve your online habits. Create complex, varied passwords and usernames. Use caution with unfamiliar websites, social media and emails. Encrypt your Wi-Fi services.

The most important action is to remain alert. In the event that you are affected by a data breach, follow up with the corporation that was breached by contacting their fraud or customer service department to find out what steps you can take, if any, to protect your information. Being informed and proactive can help mitigate the risks associated with online identity theft and any data breach.

Todd Hauer is a Financial Advisor with the Global Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley in Denver. The information contained in this interview is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. The strategies and/or investments referenced may not be suitable for all investors as the appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor's individual circumstances and objectives.  Investing involves risks and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, or its affiliates. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC, member SIPC.

COBRT President Jeff Wasden Statement on House and Senate Budget Passage

Vice President Pence's visit to Denver last Thursday coincided with his op-ed, published in the Denver Post. The Vice President outlined the administration’s goal to give working families a real tax cut, to make the tax code simple and fair for all, and to make American businesses competitive on the global stage.

U.S. House of Representatives passed the Senate budget last week, paving the way for tax reform. While the passage of the budget was a significant step forward in advancing President Trump’s top legislative priority, there are some clear warning signs for businesses anxious to see meaningful tax reform.

Our tax system has a way of creating winner and losers. As the “Big Six” unveil the details of the tax plan this week, the potential changes to various deductions that favor certain industries will bring out passionate and intense lobbying from stakeholders. As lawmakers look to simplify an inefficient and burdensome tax code, many of the exemptions and popular deductions are up for debate. So far, most of the debate has centered on state and local tax deduction (SALT), elimination of the alternative minimum tax (AMT), and the estate tax.

If you are a Twitter follower, you may have caught the recent 401(K) tweet from President Trump over concerns that changes to retirement plans could suppress savings contributions. This highlights the challenge facing Republicans who understand the importance of tax reform, not only for working families and companies, but their own political future. The Senate’s budget, adopted by the House, enacted only $1 billion in spending cuts, while allowing $1.5 trillion to be added to the national debt. Tax cuts do not pay for themselves. While we expect significant growth, increased hiring and wages by passing meaningful tax reform, we know the battle over pay-fors will only mount.

As President of the Colorado Business Roundtable, we fully support this once-in-a-generation reform of our outdated, cumbersome, uncompetitive tax code. Colorado workers should keep as much of their hard earned wages as possible. Lowering the individual rates and providing true middle class tax relief is central to this administration’s plan. Colorado businesses deserve a tax rate that provides an opportunity to compete on a level playing field. But tax reform must be done in a fiscally responsible manner. Reforms need to benefit America’s working middle class and create a fair and modern tax code.

While the passage of the budget and reconciliation instructions allows Republicans to pass tax reform without a single Democratic vote, that doesn’t necessarily mean that is the best approach. The principles of tax reform put forth by this administration should be welcomed by all- reform that is pro-growth, pro-business, and will benefit Colorado’s workers. Republicans should welcome and actively pursue bipartisan support for tax reform. Democrats would be well-suited to use their voices to put forth ideas that create wins for labor and working families. Historic tax reform will feel even better, and go a long way to reasserting congressional leadership and trust, with a bipartisan solution.  

Jeff Wasden, President
Colorado Business Roundtable
Colorado for Tax Reform Chair

Colorado Cannot Afford the 2018 Health Insurance Tax

By JEFF WASDEN, Colorado Business Roundtable, Updated: April 25, 2017 12:16 pm

The healthcare fight in Washington D.C. continues as a prolonged saga with little clarity as to when progress will be made. Meanwhile, Coloradans are facing the realities of rapidly rising health care costs with little relief in sight. At the end of the month, however, our representatives in Congress do have the option to make progress on lowering health care costs by voting to delay the Health Insurance Tax for 2018.

The Health Insurance Tax (HIT) is a brutal tax on health care that continues to cripple small and independent businesses throughout our state. While we often hear about rising premiums and unaffordable costs of healthcare for many, the HIT is an additional and specific tax on the health care plans that small business owners purchase for their employees. It’s estimated the HIT will cost businesses $500 in taxes per employee per year. A burden of this size will crush Colorado’s small businesses.

At the Colorado Business Roundtable, we prioritize creating an environment in our state for businesses to thrive and grow. The HIT works against these values and goals. Rather than adding jobs or updating equipment, businesses will have to budget for this per employee tax. Once we hinder growth for local businesses, the state suffers. Colorado businesses should pride themselves on high wages and top-of-the-line healthcare for employees. Delaying the HIT puts these aspirations in reach.

The unfortunate truth of the HIT is that the small guy is always hit the hardest. It’s Colorado’s family-owned, local enterprises — often the lifeblood of our communities — that cannot prosper under this tax. It’s important for us to fight for their success, which will no doubt bring prosperity to Colorado.

Our state was lucky when Aurora Rep. Mike Coffman, along with a strong bipartisan majority in Congress, voted to delay the HIT for 2017. The ramifications can be seen as our economy booms. Colorado is a top destination and a top place to live. This was made possible by representatives like Congressman Coffman, who have always prioritized pro-business and pro-growth legislation. By supporting the delay of the HIT for this current year, he relieved businesses that suffered under its weight from 2014 to 2016. We need him to stand with us again to vote to delay this tax.

As Congress returns to session and begins to navigate funding the budget, delaying the HIT is non-negotiable if we want our economy to thrive. The Colorado Business Roundtable hopes we can count on Congressman Coffman to vote for this delay and encourage his colleagues to do the same. Colorado cannot afford the Health Insurance Tax for 2018.

Jeff Wasden is president and CEO of Colorado Business Roundtable, a Denver-based nonprofit advocating for pro-business legislation.

As originally posted in the Aurora Sentinel

AuroraColorado Business Roundtablefeedhealth careHealth Insurance TaxHITJeff WasdenRep. Mike Coffmansmall business

F-35 Fighter Contract Vital to Colorado’s Defense Economy

Originally published here at the Denver Business Journal on November 25, 2016

The vital role that the defense sector plays in Colorado’s economy could expand in the near future if elected leaders, regardless of party or ideology, stand up for a new, fifth-generation jet fighter that already has a solid economic footprint in our state. Colorado business leaders recently learned firsthand how critically important this is when we had the rare opportunity to “fly” the cockpit simulator of the F-35 Lightning II.

The F-35 is the fifth-generation fighter jet that is enhancing America’s ability to own the skies. Ball Aerospace in Westminster is home to an exciting high-tech manufacturing facility that manufactures and tests antenna systems for the fighter. The company expects to manufacture nearly 50,000 antennas for the program in the next 25 years.  

We civilian business types, whose closest engagement with a jet fighter was the models we played with as kids, gained a deep understanding, from a pilot’s perspective, of how this aircraft is the most lethal and survivable strike fighter jet ever built.

We took two important lessons from this landmark event. First, how vital it is that America makes the F-35 a defense-funding priority in order to have an agile asset that can literally create air dominance in any environment and, as a result, meet the growing and evolving threats the nation faces in the 21st century. Equally important, we were reminded how Colorado’s energetic and expanding economy is intertwined with a strong and growing defense sector. Indeed, there are strong and sustained efforts to advocate for basing some of the new fighters here in Colorado.

Many Coloradans aren’t aware of the broad and deep economic benefit that Colorado derives from Department of Defense activity. In fact, adding up direct and indirect jobs, defense is the third-largest industry in the state, matching agriculture. Total DOD-related employment represents 5.2 percent of the state workforce, or 170,000 jobs, accounting for $11.6 billion in total labor earnings. This accounts for 6.5 percent of the Gross Regional Product (GRP).

The F-35 program is no exception.  Throughout the state, the fighter has 22 suppliers in Colorado and supports 750 direct and indirect jobs, providing an annual economic impact of $60 million throughout the state.

One of the key aspects of Colorado’s attractiveness for military-oriented jobs such as those at Ball Aerospace is our growing and well-deserved reputation as a magnet for high-tech workers. While many assume that the smaller tech startups are the most important magnet for these workers, defense-oriented jobs are attracted by – and attractive to – these men and women. A study released last year by the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs detailed the vibrant synergy between direct military activity and related companies that work with the defense sector. The report specifically cited the “crossflow” between DOD and private industry and calling it a “self-reinforcing relationship that concentrates talent, productive capacity and innovation.”

The report also underscored that Colorado’s private sector technology based companies provide a stable and reliable base for DOD that helps weather the ups and downs of the lifecycles of products and technologies.

Colorado is a vital, fertile location not only for defense jobs but for private-sector companies and entrepreneurs who work with the military. This is the fruit of years of bipartisan work to demonstrate that Colorado is second-to-none as a location to grow high-quality jobs at exciting, innovative companies. With programs such as the F-35 and other cutting-edge defense assets earning support, Colorado can continue to be an indispensable player in America’s national security – to the lasting benefit of our nation and our economy. 

Jeff Wasden, President and CEO
Colorado Business Roundtable (COBRT) 

Manufacturing Means Jobs in Colorado

[This op-ed was originally published here in the Reporter Herald on August 18, 2016.]

In Colorado, we are known for many things: beautiful mountains, unbeatable skiing, world-class dining and breathtaking national parks, to name a few. However, what doesn't get enough recognition is our manufacturing sector, a powerhouse essential to our Rocky Mountain economy.

How important exactly is manufacturing to our state's economy? One of the best measures of an industry's contribution to an economy is its exports. In 2013, exports in Colorado's advanced manufacturing sector totaled $4.8 billion. That accounted for 93 percent of Colorado's exports.

As president of the Colorado Business Roundtable, it is my responsibility to understand what industries, policies and trends are driving the Colorado economy. Over the last few years, our economy has performed well compared to the rest of the nation. We have seen decreases in the unemployment rate, increases in our GDP and an incredible tourism boom, all of which have marked Colorado as a leader in economic recovery following the Great Recession.

Despite these gains, we must not forget the importance of one of the largest forces behind our economic success — manufacturing. That sector can propel our economy and job growth even further, in tandem with our tourism and business sectors. New manufacturing plants have a ripple effect; the creation of one job within a manufacturing plant leads to the creation of several more.

Consider a technology manufacturer in Denver selling its product across the United States; that income not only creates direct jobs at the factory itself, but it also creates jobs at the company that sells utilities to the factory with indirect jobs. It also provides induced jobs at gas stations, grocery stores and retail shops as all of these job holders spend their increased disposable income within the Colorado community. Each manufacturing job at that plant in Denver created about 2.5 additional jobs in other sectors of the economy. In the past year alone, Colorado manufacturers were responsible for creating an estimated 43,615 jobs.

These manufacturers are not necessarily giant corporations; many are small businesses, with less than 500 employees. Currently, there are 5,900 companies in Colorado that work in advanced manufacturing, of which 5,700 export. Of those that export, 88 percent of manufacturers are small or medium-sized employers.

These small businesses are what define our communities and local economies. They are owned by hard-working Coloradans, entrepreneurs and business leaders. Supporting manufacturing in Colorado isn't just supporting our economy; it's supporting small business and the citizens who own those businesses.

In 2015, manufacturing employment surpassed the 2015 forecast by the University of Colorado Boulder's Leeds School of Business, making it the fifth consecutive year of gains. Let's make 2017 its sixth year. In 2015, real GDP in manufacturing grew by 3 percent year-over-year, making it the eighth fastest-growing industry in Colorado. These numbers show manufacturing's serious economic impact to our state.

Let's keep growing Colorado. Grow manufacturing, grow our economy.

 

Jeff Wasden is the president of Colorado Business Roundtable.

 

Presidential Candidates Should Follow Denver’s Leadership Overseas

[This op-ed was originally published here at The Colorado Statesman on May 17, 2016.]

Now that both parties have decided on the presumptive nominees for the 2016 presidential election and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump make their case to Coloradoans, it is easy to find the stark differences between them on any number of issues — from terrorism to trade to taxes. In a highly partisan campaign environment, it can seem near impossible to find common ground. But there is one thing that all the candidates can and should agree on: the vital importance of strengthening America’s global leadership.

This may be an unusual question, but what does Nepal have to do with the presidential race?

After last year’s devastating earthquake, a young woman, Laxmi, was left to die. Suffering from a broken back, legs and pelvis, she was pulled from the rubble and transported to a medical center. Her injuries were severe, but treatable. Due to the lack of medical supplies, though, there was little that could be done. She was sent back to her destroyed village with no hope of recovery. It was in that village that Tom Dickey, a Fort Collins-based physician’s assistant, found her. Working with Project C.U.R.E., he had travelled to Nepal following the disaster and was able to provide lifesaving aid to countless victims, including Laxmi. Working with a local medical equipment engineer, Tom helped establish a post-operative rehab center for dozens of people who suffered traumatic injuries. Thanks to American generosity—Laxmi is able to walk again.

Tom’s story is a powerful one because it demonstrates on a personal level how Denver has long played an oversized role across the globe—and how what happens overseas directly matters to us here at home. Not only is Denver headquarters to international charities, but the Mile-High City is proud to host global companies like IBM, Intel, Cargill, and Lockheed Martin. They, as well as local industry leaders like CH2M have all invested heavily in Colorado.

The candidates should know that more than 710,000 jobs are supported by trade statewide—more than one in five—and with close to $8.4 billion in foreign exports last year, Colorado plays a central role in the world economy. Nearly 5,000 small and medium-sized Colorado businesses sold goods overseas, a number that is only likely to increase in the future. As these companies can attest, America’s customers are no longer our traditional allies in Europe and North America. In fact, over half of our exports now go to developing countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

We’re proud that Denver-based organizations like Project C.U.R.E. and the DaVita Village Trust not only provide humanitarian assistance overseas, but also help promote development that opens doors for economic growth and opportunity. Together with our U.S. government counterparts, like USAID, the Peace Corps and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, we help save lives and create stability overseas. As we confront growing challenges overseas from ISIS to Russia to the Zika virus, these are the civilian tools that our next president will need on their first day in the Oval Office.

Our development and trade efforts build peace and prosperity in places where it had been previously lacking. Not only do they reduce the risk of conflict and terrorism, Colorado companies—many which belong to the Colorado Business Roundtable and its affiliates—also foster relationships around the world to advance American interests and values. As countries move up the development ladder, investments by the U.S. are repaid many times over through improved business ties and expanded customer bases. This is not just a hypothetical—11 of our top 15 trading partners today were once recipients of U.S. assistance.

Calls from the campaign trail for isolationism or turning inward ignore today’s globalized economy and our increasingly interconnected world. We can no longer only count on our domestic customers to remain competitive. Denver businesses depend on strategic investments in development and diplomacy to open doors and create a climate to facilitate trade and investment. As our nation helps increase prosperity in the developing world, we expand our access to emerging markets and new consumers have the buying power to purchase American goods.

And our generals are the first to say that American military might alone, will not keep us safe from threats like pandemics, terrorism, weapons proliferation, and environmental disasters. No longer do the mountains or the plains insulate us from threats and changes overseas—now we must fully engage in what is happening in London, Jordan, and Indonesia. Only with strong American leadership can we help influence events internationally and ensure that the world remains a safe place for the United States to do business.

In November, Colorado voters will be going to the polls to choose the next commander-in-chief. What do we expect to hear from all the candidates? A clear vision for how they will use all our tools—development, diplomacy, and defense—to strengthen our nation’s role in the world.

Dr. Douglas Jackson is the President and CEO of Project C.U.R.E., the largest provider of donated medical supplies and equipment to developing countries around the world. Jeff Wasden is the President of the Colorado Business Roundtable, a leading business organization that advocates for business development and a stronger Colorado economy. Both are members of the Colorado Advisory Council of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.

Health Insurance Tax Provision Passes Real Cost to Customers

Colorado families depend upon a growing economy and a strong private sector to ensure they can meet their needs today and reach for their goals tomorrow. Small and medium-sized businesses are widely recognized as the engines that provide the thrust necessary for the economy to take off through innovation and employment opportunity.

When a tax or regulation targets those growing companies, it doesn't just hurt the entrepreneurs and owners: Whatever holds the businesses back also holds back their employees and the people who might have become employees.

That's why we are deeply concerned by the Health Insurance Tax provision within the Affordable Care Act. The Health Insurance Tax acts like a sales tax on health-insurance policies purchased in the market by individuals and employers. While the tax, when implemented, is supposed to be paid by the insurance companies, the real cost will be passed through to the customers who pay for the insurance.

It's pretty simple: when every insurance company is required to pay the same tax and their customers have no other alternative but to pay for the policies, the tax will be added to the cost of the policy. No insurance company is going to absorb the estimated annual cost of more than $500 per insured family per year. The insurance companies will simply pass it along as a price increase.

In many small businesses, $500 per employee would buy everyone a new computer or send everyone to a training session to learn about a new technique for working smarter or faster. Those are the kinds of investments that businesses make when they're trying to grow and become more effective in the competitive marketplace.

Targeting this tax at those very same small businesses means that they're being saddled with new expenses instead of being encouraged to invest for new opportunity. That starves them of the fuel needed to become those important engines of economic growth. Thank you for your time and consideration of these concerns we have about how the Health Insurance Tax will negatively impact Colorado’s companies, consumers and, ultimately, citizens.


Contact your legislators now about this issue. Submit a message to Senator Cory Gardner here or call 202-224-5941. Submit a message to Senator Michael Bennet here or call 202-224-5852. If you would like to pass this message along, we urge you to share it with the social share buttons below. 

An open letter to the Colorado General Assembly

Dear Members of the Colorado State Legislature,

Please, pump the breaks. Take a breath and do what we were all taught in elementary school, and “just say no.” The onslaught of anti-business bills being ran this year, many borne out of election-year politicking, is threatening the Colorado so many know and love. During the reason committee hearing on HB-1275, the tax haven bill, Metro Denver EDC Chair Tom Clark testified that this bill would set us back as a state and put us at a competitive disadvantage. Representative Priola mentioned that this bill would work against the direct efforts of Governor Hickenlooper and Fiona Arnold, Office of Economic Development and International Trade. 

Colorado was just listed as the number three state for business by the Wall Street Journal. While there is a lot to be celebrated, there are certainly warning signs and areas of concern. Number one on the list was Utah (again). Governor Herbert, Utah has made it a personal mission to remove burdensome, outdated regulations off the books (342 in one year), and the Olympics provided important infrastructure enhancements. Of significant note was the announcement on Feb 26th highlighting the creation of the newly formed Utah Chapter of Aerospace States Association. The South Metro Denver Chamber just hosted an economic development meeting on our aerospace industry, and Colorado Business Roundtable recently had Colorado’s Aerospace Champion Major Gen. Jay Lindell and Edgar Johansson from the Colorado Space Business Roundtable on its Connect and Collaborate radio. The aerospace industry in Colorado is vibrant, growing, and drives significant economic impact to the state. Is our state legislature willing to put that at risk knowing that Utah and other states would welcome any of our prime companies with open arms? 

During its Legislative Reception prior to the start of the session, COBRT President Jeff Wasden challenged the business community to stop asking legislators what are their five bills for the year (as each legislator can run five bills with some exceptions each year). Instead, the questions we should be asking are “What priorities do you have for this session?” and “How can you ensure the proper role of government to help Colorado families and businesses this year?” Instead, we get hit with the tax haven bill, equity pay bills, minimum wage bills, paid mandatory sick leave bills, and others. Couple those with proposed ballot initiatives like single-payer healthcare and statewide energy bans and it is no wonder business always feel under attack and playing defense. 

Colorado has evolved since the 80’s. The Metropolitan Revolution by Katz and Bradley highlights significant milestones in the evolution of the metro Denver region and the center-city hub—aggressive annexations, the rise of Denver International Airport, the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, and FasTracks. Today, the Denver metro region is home to corporate headquarters for companies like DaVita, Ball Corp, Arrow Electronics, CH2M, Western Union, Level 3, Newmont Mining, and Dish. Our economy boasts a strong, diversified portfolio from bioscience, renewable energy, aerospace, financial services, health and wellness, creative industries, and engineering. We have an educated workforce, favorable climate, and amazing outdoors in which to recreate. 

The State of California has long been one of our strongest recruiting tools as overreaching policies have driven off company after company. We should all take note, because business is much more mobile, states are actively competing for companies, and policies matter. Let’s focus on what is important for our ongoing economic prosperity and wellbeing—finding conservative ways to fix our broken transportation funding, critical investments in infrastructure, ensuring all students have access to a quality education, and working with business instead of against business. 

Jeff Wasden, President, Colorado Business Roundtable
Robert Golden, President/CEO, South Metro Denver Chamber


Printed at The Colorado Statesman and Denver Business Journal 

   

Space Organizations Release White Paper: "Ensuring U.S. Leadership in Space"

Space Foundation Contact:
Brendan Curry, Vice President - Washington Operations
202.618.3061

Space Organizations Release White Paper:
"Ensuring U.S. Leadership in Space"

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (March 4, 2016) - Representatives from a coalition of 13 leading U.S. space organizations have produced a white paper entitled "Ensuring U.S. Leadership in Space."

The coalition includes aerospace professionals from industry, academia and government, who joined together to outline issues every presidential and congressional candidate needs to know about space to ensure that space and space policy are a priority in the next administration.

For nearly 60 years, U.S. government and private sector investment and partnerships in space have been critical to the nation and our world. They make possible a $330 billion global space industry, establish new technologies, revolutionize national security, enable and extend our global communication networks, help us understand our own planet better and inspire millions of Americans to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Yet there still remain serious challenges to U.S. leadership in space that the next administration and congress will have to address. The white paper outlines the challenges that the U.S. space program faces, including unpredictable budgeting, foreign competition and workforce trends. In addition to detailing the challenges, the paper explores sensible policy recommendations to address and overcome them, actions necessary to continue our nation's leadership in space.

The paper was introduced today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and presented on behalf of the coalition by:

  *Dr. Sandra H. Magnus, executive director of AIAA
  *Elliot H. Pulham, CEO of the Space Foundation
  *Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

Coalition members, in addition to AIAA, Commercial Spaceflight Foundation, and the Space Foundation, are: Aerospace Industries Association, Aerospace States Association, American Astronautical Society, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, Colorado Space Coalition, Satellite Industry Association, Silicon Valley Space Business Roundtable, Space Angels Network, Space Florida, and the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.


Read the paper online at ensuringspace.org.


About the Space Foundation
Founded in 1983, the Space Foundation is the foremost advocate for all sectors of space, and is a global, nonprofit leader in space awareness activities, educational programs and major industry events, including the annual Space Symposium, in support of its mission "to advance space-related endeavors to inspire, enable and propel humanity." Space Foundation World Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., USA, has a public Discovery Center, including El Pomar Space Gallery, Northrop Grumman Science Center featuring Science On a Sphere(r) and the Lockheed Martin Space Education Center. The Space Foundation has a field office in Houston and conducts government affairs from its Washington, D.C., office. It publishes The Space Report: The Authoritative Guide to Global Space Activity, and through its Space CertificationTM and Space Technology Hall of Fame(r) programs, recognizes space-based innovations that have been adapted to improve life on Earth. Visit www.SpaceFoundation.org

A bipartisan opportunity for improving federal regulation

By Jeff Wasden, President
Colorado Business Roundtable

In President’s Obama’s State of the Union address on January 12, 2016 he won a vigorous – and bipartisan – standing ovation with a few simple words about the economy and regulation.

“I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy,” the President declared. “I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut.”

The Colorado Business Roundtable (COBRT) agrees with President Obama on this point. The challenge now is to turn that clear statement of principle into action with real legislation that Congress can pass and the President will sign.

Regulatory reform is critical to our economic vitality. According to a 2014 study by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, federal regulation and intervention cost American consumers and businesses an estimated $1.88 trillion in lost economic productivity and higher prices.

The COBRT has been active locally in working to pass the Regulatory Reform Act. Later this year, together along with the NFIB, we will host the American Opportunity Project and the Regulation Freedom Amendment which looks to rein in the current burdensome regulatory processes imposed by bureaucrats and allow for congressional oversight.

Can Congress come together and create legislation that generates bipartisan support and actually has some teeth in reducing burdensome regulation? There is real optimism this can be accomplished.  A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators is currently attempting to develop such legislation. They are working on a proposal that would improve the process for developing new regulations that breaks the status quo and the regulatory mess we find ourselves in now. Regulations would then achieve their goal of protecting people and the environment, while cutting the red tape that makes it so hard for businesses to invest, hire and compete.

The draft proposal, the Regulatory Improvement Act, builds on recommendations made by a number of independent groups whose primary interest is in seeing that federal regulation works both effectively and efficiently. The Regulatory Improvement Act represents a major update of the 70-year-old process by which federal agencies write the regulations that affect Colorado’s citizens and businesses so dramatically.

For example, the proposal would require agencies that issue major regulations – those with an economic impact of $100 million or more – put a plan in place to assess whether the regulation is doing what it was intended do when it was issued. Quite simply, agencies have to answer the question: Is the regulation working?

Americans would also gain a bigger voice in the regulatory process. Today, agencies often propose major rules without giving much notice ahead of time, forcing everyone potentially affected to scramble in response. The process shortchanges the public, who may have good ideas to offer, and ultimately produces regulations that may not achieve their intended goals in the most efficient and effective way possible. The Regulatory Improvement Act would address this issue by requiring federal agencies to publish advance notice that they will be working on a new regulation that would have a major impact on the economy.

The bill would also require so-called independent agencies – like the SEC and Federal Communications Commission – to adopt the same kind of sound regulatory development practices that Cabinet agencies must follow. For example, right now, these agencies aren’t required to conduct a full and objective cost-benefit analysis when proposing a regulatory solution. Some do, but there is no guarantee that the agency will take the same time as say, the Department of Defense, to determine whether their proposal will achieve its objectives in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Colorado’s businesses are not opposed to all regulation. But, like the public, we believe that regulations should meet their intended goal of protecting people and the environment in the smartest way possible. Improving the process for issuing new regulations so that they meet their objectives, without creating duplication or unnecessary red tape is good public policy. The Regulatory Improvement Act would do just that, and the Colorado Business Roundtable believes such bipartisan reform could make a big difference.

Colorado Business Roundtable (COBRT) is a prominent advocate for proactive, positive legislation that strengthens the economy and allows businesses to grow and thrive in Colorado and the region. Through strategic alliances with great groups of industry leaders, chambers of commerce, educational institutions and governmental bodies, our goal is to improve the business environment, increase effectiveness, and expand the networks of our partners.

www.cobrt.com/radio
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New Air Traffic Control Approach Needed for 21st Century

By: Colorado Business Roundtable President Jeff Wasde 

One year ago nearly 4.4 million passengers flew in and out of Denver International Airport during December. Whether visiting family and friends, traveling for work, or enjoying a ski vacation, most of these people did not give even a moment of thought to air traffic control. And that’s the way it should be.

Denver International Airport is the fifth busiest commercial airport in the United States, with 1,550 daily flights to more than 180 countries. There is a good reason for that: Colorado is home to some of the nation’s leading companies in diverse fields from aerospace to energy to biomedicine; we are also a major tourist destination. However, getting in and out of Colorado could be made safer and more efficient with proposed legislation that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, and specifically, modernize our nation’s astonishingly outdated air traffic control (ATC) system.

Flying remains the safest way to travel, but that might be in spite of our current national air traffic control system rather than because of it. Most Coloradans would be stunned to learn that some of the technology currently being used at our nation’s busiest airports is more than 50 years old, but sadly, that is the case. 

Antiquated equipment isn’t the only problem. The FAA currently can’t recruit, hire, train, and retain enough air traffic controllers to meet the needs of travelers and shippers. Further exacerbating the problem is that one third of the nearly 11,000 certified air traffic controllers are eligible to retire.

Congressional budget battles have made it difficult for the agency to help move the air traffic control system into the 21st century. Even when well-funded, the beleaguered FAA is stuck with an archaic procurement system. For example, upgrades to air traffic control systems that are scheduled for completion in the coming year were designed 18 years ago. What other technology-driven enterprise updates to equipment from the heyday of Windows 95?

We can solve this problem by putting the air traffic control system under new management – a not-for-profit organization that is independent of the federal government. 

Under this proposal, the FAA would retain safety and regulatory oversight while ATC services would be performed by an independent organization funded through transparent user fees based on actual operating costs. Financing would go toward priorities that deliver results for the flying public – not pet political projects. No longer could budget fights in Washington, D.C. threaten to shut down or reduce air traffic control services across the country.  

The U.S. air traffic control network must be modernized to better handle a growing volume of flights. How many of us have faced airport delays? Using the best current technologies, many of these delays could be reduced or eliminated, while creating efficiencies that allow investment in additional safety measures.

Handing control of air traffic management to a nongovernmental agency is neither a new idea nor untested. It’s an accepted practice around the world. The United Kingdom uses a model that has significantly reduced ATC-related flight delays. Canada is using more advanced technology to guide aircraft. Dozens of other countries have made this shift.

The proposed not-for-profit management of air traffic control would be governed by a board of directors representing key stakeholders: cargo shippers, general aviation users, air traffic controllers, airlines, the Pentagon, and the general public. The board would have a mandate to develop and operate a world-class system driven by high quality professionals and cutting edge technology – while maintaining safety and expanding access to users large and small. It would not be another government establishment with a novel name. 

None of us want to have to think about air traffic control when we’re at the airport. We certainly don’t want to hear the pilot come on the intercom and tell us we’re the twelfth plane waiting for takeoff. With an air traffic control system that provides better technology and more controllers, we won’t have to. And everyone will benefit.