16 Denver

PopulationMetro: 2,888,227
Light rail, legal pot and buzzing ‘hoods put Denver on the fast track.

What do you get when you cross a well-connected city with urban adventures for all ages, low unemployment and year-round mild weather with spectacular Rocky Mountains scenery?

You get Denver, a magnet for businesses and millennials looking to live the good life in an outdoorsy destination with a walkable city center and laid-back vibe.

Since its Wild West beginnings, Denver has attracted people from a variety of cultures who’ve created a rich tapestry and a diverse cultural heritage. An increasing number of companies are locating in Downtown Denver, which points to its reputation as one of the best places in the country to start and grow a business.

Indeed, 15 major companies—Apple, Facebook, Upserve, SendGrid among them—relocated or opened a new office in the city in the past year. “Colorado is witnessing tech industry expansion to a degree not yet seen this business cycle,” says Katie Murtaugh, a CBRE senior research analyst and author of the company’s Colorado Tech Book 2018 report.

Place 44
Product 37
Programming 15
People 68
Prosperity 47
Promotion 15

When compared to six other tech hubs in the West—San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Portland and Austin—CBRE found Denver had the third-highest average tech worker wage at $100,751 per year. The space needed to house employees is still somewhat of a bargain in Colorado compared to other industry hot spots.

But it’s not just an abundance of jobs and a lower cost of living that’s attracting a highly educated and in-demand workforce to the city. Blessed with 300 days of sunshine a year (relative to its competitors, Denver scores #14 in our Weather sub-category), surrounded by mountains, hiking paths and numerous indoor/outdoor spaces, the city is in the vanguard of the growing trend toward office wellness. Lest we forget, cannabis is legal in the Mile High City and the entire state of Colorado.

The Downtown Denver Partnership, a non-profit business organization, reports that Downtown Denver’s workforce of over 130,000 people grew at a rate of 20% since 2010, meanwhile the city’s unemployment rate remains one of the lowest in the country, at 2.8%.

Denver ranks #12 in the Product category, which looks at a city’s key institutions, attractions, and infrastructure. The Mile High City does well in two sub-categories: #5 for Airport Connectivity and #13 for the size of its Convention Center.

Denver’s historic Union Station has become the “city’s living room,” integrating light rail, commuter rail and intercity rail (Amtrak), as well as bus service, the 16th Street MallRide, Downtown Circulator, and taxis, limos, bikes and pedestrians. It’s become a destination in and of itself, with restaurants from some of the city’s top chefs, local shops and welcoming public areas where people can enjoy a latte, a craft beer and conversation.

Meanwhile, Denver International Airport (DEN) ranks as the second largest airport in the world by size, the sixth-busiest airport in the United States and the 18th-busiest airport in the world, handling a record-breaking 61 million passengers as of 2017. “Events at DEN” is an ongoing series of public events featuring family-friendly entertainment, activities, music, and movies that take place in an 82,000-square-foot open-air plaza opened since 2015 outside the airport. Steps from the new University of Colorado A Line station at DEN and located pre-security, the plaza connects the airport terminal to the Westin hotel and is covered by a canopy, providing both covered and uncovered areas for activities.

A quick search on social media channels turns up more than 10 million posts that tag the city, proving that the mile-high experience isn’t just for those who live and work here. In 2017, Denver welcomed a record 31.7 million visitors, marking the 12th consecutive year of growth for the booming tourism industry, according to a survey by Visit Denver.