Markey

After exit from OEDIT, Markey still wants to leave a mark

Although Betsy Markey remains coy about her future plans, the former one-term Fourth District congresswoman and head of Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade is adamant that marking her 65th birthday in April did not mean retirement.

“I don’t know if anyone actually ever retires,” she told BizWest. “They just retire from one job to go to something else.”

What that something is has yet to be determined, she insisted, but forming the plan will follow a week of reconnecting with her old contacts in the nation’s capital and then “taking the summer off to enjoy some family time” including doting on her grandchild and — pandemic restrictions allowing — attending her son’s wedding abroad and visiting Italy. “But I always want to stay in Colorado in summer,” she added, “because it’s so beautiful here.”

She’s done this in other times in her life as well, Markey said. “You close one chapter and start another one. You take a sabbatical, decompress and see what’s next.”

What’s next, she said, could “run the gamut of consulting and economic development or even retail or health and wellness. “Ideas are germinating but not ready to put out there,” Markey said.

What she knows for certain was that last March was an appropriate point for her to leave OEDIT’s helm after more than two years.

“Obviously, everyone’s job was difficult during the pandemic, ours included,” she said, “and you go through a pandemic year like we’ve had, it helps you refocus and think, ‘Gosh, how do I want to spend my time over the next couple years,’ and I decided I wanted just a little more flexibility in my schedule.

“We were starting to transition from pandemic response to economic recovery, so it was a good time to hand the reins over to someone new.”

That someone is Pat Meyers, an attorney specializing in franchise law who was involved with the Quiznos and Smashburger fast-food chains before eventually serving as Gov. John Hickenlooper’s chief of staff and then being tapped by Gov. Jared Polis to help find personal protective gear and medical supplies in the COVID-19 pandemic’s early days. In April, Polis appointed Meyers to succeed Markey at OEDIT and also become Colorado’s “chief economic recovery officer.”

“I worked with him a little bit when he ran the Innovation Response Team early on and did a fantastic job,” Markey said.

Meyers must fill the shoes of an OEDIT director who Consultant Connect recognized this year as one of North America’s top 50 economic developers. During Markey’s term, the state earned multiple awards for an economy that largely showed the same resilience it had during the Great Recession and continued to attract a dynamic mix of companies to Colorado.

“The first year I was there, we were making very good strides into reaching out to international businesses and international trade,” Markey said. “That had to be put on hold during the pandemic.

“The pandemic was very difficult for all our businesses,” she said, so OEDIT did its best to “strike the right balance between making sure they were taken care of with as much support as possible while at the same time we had to do everything we could to protect public safety. I think the state did a nice job of threading that needle.”

She also had to try to balance the conflicting needs and values of urban and rural Colorado, the same challenge she faced in her 2009-2011 term representing a district in Congress that included vast stretches of conservative eastern Colorado as well as some more centrist or liberal northern Front Range cities.

“We had to make sure companies knew there’s a great workforce throughout Colorado, not just along the Front Range,” she said. “Look at the interesting businesses popping up in places like Logan County, Grand Junction, Durango, the mountain communities. We had to make sure the business community knew that there were opportunities outside the Front Range where the cost of housing and setting up your business is cheaper.

“We did provide some extra incentives to businesses to have some of their workforce outside the Front Range,” Markey said, “but the state is not going to be able to dictate that. Economic development is a team sport.”

Under Markey, OEDIT teamed up with the private sector and fundraisers to develop state programs such as the Energize Colorado Gap Fund, which offered grants to small firms, and the Climber Fund, a low-interest loan program for companies that were profitable before COVID-19 but needed help to stay open until the economy recovers.

What’s next as the state enters recovery mode, she said, is partially up to OEDIT’s new leadership and the Legislature.

“We still have infrastructure to support, and I appreciate the effort that’s being put on education, health care, transportation and housing,” Markey said. “Those are all issues important to the next generation of workers, and important for the state’s quality of life. We have to have great opportunities for high school students to go on and find good-paying jobs here, and we need to make sure we have housing that’s affordable, that we’re not getting priced out by other areas of the U.S.”

If asked for her advice, she said, “I’d recommend that we continue to focus on things like our advanced industry program, giving support for emerging industries in sectors like information technology, bioscience and aerospace.”

Whatever comes next for Markey is likely to tap into experience that has ranged from being a budget and program analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department, working with the State Department on international computer security and serving as a regional chief for the Small Business Administration to co-founding a software firm called Syscom Services that after seven years ranked 99th in the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies. For a time in the 1990s, she also owned a successful shop in Old Town Fort Collins that sold coffee and ice cream.

“I’ve had lots of different jobs in my career,” Markey said. “My children would probably say running Huckleberry’s was best.”

Although Betsy Markey remains coy about her future plans, the former one-term Fourth District congresswoman and head of Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade is adamant that marking her 65th birthday in April did not mean retirement.

“I don’t know if anyone actually ever retires,” she told BizWest. “They just retire from one job to go to something else.”

What that something is has yet to be determined, she insisted, but forming the plan will follow a week of reconnecting with her old contacts in the nation’s capital and then “taking the summer off to enjoy some family time” including doting on her grandchild and — pandemic restrictions allowing — attending her son’s wedding abroad and visiting Italy. “But I always want to stay in Colorado in summer,” she added, “because it’s so beautiful here.”

She’s done this in other times in her life as well, Markey said. “You close one chapter and start another one. You take a sabbatical, decompress and see what’s next.”

What’s next, she said, could “run the gamut of consulting and economic development or even retail or health and wellness. “Ideas are germinating but not ready to put out there,” Markey said.

What she knows for certain was that last March was an appropriate point for her to leave OEDIT’s helm after more than two years.

“Obviously, everyone’s job was difficult during the pandemic, ours included,” she said, “and you go through a pandemic year like we’ve had, it helps you refocus and think, ‘Gosh, how do I want…