Colorado Continues to Rank Among the Best States

It’s the start of a new year and various institutions are coming out with their annual rankings. Once again, Colorado stands out as a premier place to create or expand a business.

Colorado Named #2 Economy 

US News & World Report named Colorado the #2 economy in the United States. U.S. News ranked all 50 states based on data within 71 metrics across eight categories, such as economy, health care and education. Job growth and the overall growth of each state’s gross domestic product were measured between 2014 and 2017. Unemployment rate and participation in the labor force for everyone 16 and older were measured. The number of people moving in and out of a state was taken into account, as was the growth of the youngest cohort of citizens. Business environment was considered, measured by overall tax burden, the number of top company headquarters per capita, venture capital disbursed, entrepreneurship and patent creation. Entrepreneurship was measured as a “business birth rate,’’ while patents were counted per one million population.

Three of the Top 20 Best Performing Cities 

The Milken Institute released its 2021 Best Performing Cities report and Colorado had three cities in the top 20, the most of any state. 

Among Colorado’s rankings are: 

  • Denver-Aurora-Lakewood ranked 11th overall in Tier 1 cities, a jump of seven spots from the 2020 rankings. 
  • Fort Collins ranked 12th overall, a jump of nine spots. 

In the Tier II category: 

  • Colorado Springs ranks 17th (a jump of 19 spots over 2020)

Additionally, Boulder (44) and Greeley (43) ranked in the top 50. 

Milken's Best Performing Cities 2021 Index emphasizes jobs, wages, and high tech growth while incorporating new measures of housing affordability and household broadband access. With these new metrics, Colorado cities jumped several spots into the Tier 1 index while some of the usual standouts, including No. 24 San Francisco and No. 22 San Jose, dropped to Tier 2 due to the high cost of housing and a strong negative shift in short-term job growth. 

While COVID-19 has affected cities' economic performance across the United States, the top performing metro areas are leveraging their assets to remain a competitive place for businesses to operate and workers to live, regardless of the nation’s overall economic health. 

“Having three cities in the top 20 indicates how Colorado's economy has remained competitive in spite of economic setbacks due to COVID-19,” said Michelle Hadwiger, Global Business Development Director. “Our diversified, knowledge-based economy remains strong and is poised to rebound from the current economic shock.” 

Colorado’s workforce as one of the most educated in the country

In mid-February, WalletHub released its annual ranking of most educated states, where Colorado came in fifth. In the study, WalletHub compared all 50 states across 18 metrics that examined the key factors of a well-educated population: educational attainment, school quality and achievement gaps between genders and races.

In addition, Colorado came in first for the highest percentage of Associate Degree holders or College-experienced adults and second for highest percentage of Bachelor Degree holders. Colorado is home to 87 colleges and universities, and more than 30 research labs and institutions.

Denver’s International Airport ranked as top in the country

Also in February, USA Today ranked Denver International Airport as the Best Large Airport  (serving more than 12 million passengers annually) in the United States. As noted in the article, spending time at the airport is an inevitable part of most travel experiences and the quality of the airport itself can make a huge difference and DEN makes the airport visit a breeze.

Colorado’s startup ecosystem is exploding

Over the past 10 years, Colorado's startup ecosystem has matured and, with it, venture capital (VC) investment, talent and secondary locations for Fortune 500 technology companies have followed. 

A recent report by Access Ventures and Crunchbase found that capital invested in Colorado companies has grown 86% in the past five years. Despite being in the lower 20s for rank in population and company counts, Colorado was 6th for the total number of VC deals, 9th in the total amount of capital invested through those deals, and 12th in the median deal size.

In 2020, the top verticals that received funding were artificial intelligence, Business to Business Software as a Service (B2B SaaS), biotech, healthtech, fintech, and technology, media, and telecom. Aerospace is also one of Colorado’s fastest-growing industries, attracting $125.3 million in funding in 2020 compared to $4.25 million in 2015.

Colorado embracing the future of remote work

Another recent noteworthy accolade includes Livability ranking Fort Collins as a top city for remote work. As a result of the pandemic, millions of employees started working remotely and found that the virtual work setup provided a better work/life balance and the opportunity to live in places previously not considered because of their remote location or distance from employers.

Several major companies announced they’d be extending their work-from-home policies through at least 2021, if not indefinitely. To support this new workforce, Colorado offers a Location Neutral Employment incentive, providing a cash benefit to companies that hire employees in designated locations throughout the state. The state is also launching a certification program in April for employers, employees and communities to support remote work throughout Colorado.

To learn all the ways Colorado rises a mile above or more over other states and how the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade can support your business and employees, visit