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Wake-Up Call: An idea ready for take-off

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While Mayor John Hickenlooper was outlining some of the ways that Denver is speeding up projects to stimulate the local economy, DIA aviation manager Kim Day yesterday announced plans for a 500-room hotel at the airport, which will be built right by the anticipated FasTracks stop. The hotel project could break ground as early as February 2010.

Which is all well and good, but here's a much easier project the city could take on if it wants to add a fast local economy booster, as well as an amenity for travelers: a souvenir store filled with items actually created in this state (unlike the T-shirts made in Haiti that get the date of Denver's founding wrong, which you can buy in the Greetings from Colorado store on Concourse A).

These Mile High Buy (or Buy Mile High -- this idea is still a work in progress) spots could stock books by local authors, interesting inventions (the beer-bottle-opener belt buckle, for example), food gifts (how about some Colorado jerky instead of that stuff from Idaho or California?), and even display works by area artists. Sure, it will take some time to sort through the possibilities, but creating an inventory of our homegrown businesses and talents would be a good use of time in these tough times. Particularly if it results in the creators collecting some cash even as Denver is pushing its creative reputation well beyond city limits.

And if the shops are located on the concourses, past the security checkpoints, they could even sell to-go bottles of Colorado's most liquid asset: its microbrews. New Belgium, Rock Bottom and the Denver ChopHouse already have outlets at the airport. Why not let travelers take home a taste of this state?

Today, DIA. Tomorrow, the 16th Street Mall. Not that I have anything against all those made-in-China souvenir shops....

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