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DENVER-John Hickenlooper, who was inaugurated as Denver’s 43rd mayor on Monday, re-affirmed his commitment to $5.3 billion in publicly assisted projects that could be developed over the next five years, creating approximately 40,000 jobs.

Removing bureaucratic obstacles and inefficiencies is central to expediting these projects and getting people back to work, Hickenlooper says, as he unveiled a new, cabinet-level Office of Economic Development and an enhanced development review process.

“The strength of our economy directly affects the city budget and every other issue that demands resources,” Hickenlooper says. “As such, economic development must be a top priority. Elevating the economic development office to the cabinet is more than symbolic. The department will have the tools, resources and structure to get the job done.”

His new cabinet-rank Office of Economic Development combines the current Mayor’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, Mayor’s Office of Contract Compliance and the Housing and Neighborhood Development Services division (currently located in the Community Planning and Development department). The OED Director and division heads will be announced in the coming weeks.

“Land use, transportation, economic development, workforce and housing issues are interrelated and need better integration and coordination,” says Hickenlooper. “This new structure will not only help these functions work together, it will require them to do so. Internally, it will help us use resources more efficiently and move them around to where they are need most. Externally, it will provide better customer service for people who want to do job- and revenue-generating projects in Denver.”

With improving customer service and expediting bureaucratic processes are the goals, Hickenlooper says he will improve the development review process by creating a formal mechanism by which all development-related agencies must coordinate and cooperate.

The three-tiered system will operate in the following manner: Staff designees from Economic Development, Public Works and Planning will meet every two weeks to resolve inter-departmental disagreements that are delaying projects.

Issues that cannot be resolved will be escalated to the Development Council, which will include the departmental heads of Economic Development, Public Works and Planning. Any issues that cannot be resolved by the Development Council, which will also meet every two weeks, will be decided by the Mayor’s Office. Throughout this process, there will be enhanced accountability and tracking, so project proponents know exactly where their project is in the process.

“We will no longer allow a maze of bureaucratic obstacles and interdepartmental disagreements to delay much-needed economic development efforts,” Hickenlooper says. “This is a first step in creating a new culture in city government where city processes facilitate the economic development process, rather than obstruct it.”

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