Rocky Mountain High

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Since the development of printing presses that made possible the penny press to the pagination systems that created this morning’s front page, most of the technology that drives the newspaper industry was born in the Northeast or, to a lesser extent, the Midwest.

“Dial area code 201 for newspaper technology,” an E&P article from the 1980s once advised, referring to the telephone code that then covered all of northern New Jersey.

But this year’s Nexpo equipment show, which concluded Tuesday in Chicago, put the industry on notice that Colorado has developed into a center of newspaper technology as well.

Denver-based Olive Software, for instance, was among the growing number of vendors showing an electronic newspaper, which it brands the ActivePaper Daily.

“I’ve thought for a long time that when you look at this whole business, many of the seeds are planted in Colorado,” Olive Sales Manager Richard C. Peterson said as he took a break from demonstrating the e-paper and Olive’s other XML-based products.

Peterson thinks the reason Colorado is coming into its own in technology is pretty simple. “It’s, oh, it’s just a great place to live,” he said.

Every other Colorado-based vendor on the Nexpo floor echoed that theme. But there’s more to it than that, several added.

“I think the hook for a lot of us is in Boulder,” said R. Allyn Hallisey, president of Rockledge Software, a developer of mapping and scheduling software for newspaper advertising sales.

“There’s a tremendous labor pool of really skilled developers from Boulder, who are drawn by significant lifestyle advantages,” he said.

Indeed, according to the state’s Office of Economic Development (OED), Colorado ranks second in the United States in share of “computer and information science experts,” as well as recent degrees awarded in science and engineering. Milken Institute, the economic think tank, ranked it third, behind Massachusetts and California in its most recent “State Technology & Science Index.”

Home to two of the world’s ten fastest supercomputers, Colorado’s high-tech sector contributes $9 billion to the state economic, according to the OED.

Even Colorado’s Mountain Time is good for a software company, Hallisey said. Just two hours behind or ahead of either coast, the time is perfect for customer support by telephone or in person, he added: “If you were in Boston and had clients in L.A., you’d have to, essentially, keep someone there.”

Plasmon, the data archival storage solution provider, has its global headquarters in the United Kingdom, but in the U.S. it located in Englewood, Colorado. Michael Brooks, the company’s director of strategic alliances, says Colorado was picked not so much because the newspaper industry is growing there, but for a more specific reason.

“We’re in Colorado because there are a lot of storage technology companies there,” Brooks said.

One of the first big newspaper vendors to set up show in Colorado was Quark, the publishing software developer that changed the way newspapers made themselves up each day with its flagship product QuarkXPress.

“We’ve been there since the ’80s, and watch (the Denver/Boulder metropolis) grow up around us,” said Matthew Forcey, an enterprise account executive for the Denver-based company.

Denver’s local labor pool includes not only engineers and others with technology schools, said Matthew Forcey, an enterprise account executive for Quark, but also managers graduated from a number of very good management education programs at schools such as the University of Denver.

And for all its explosive growth, the cost of living remains cheaper than many other big cities, Forcey said, and the outdoorsy, youth-oriented lifestyle aspects makes it attractive to potential employees.

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