City has history of big plans, but officials say Boeing bid is different

DENVER - Exuberant promoters sometimes tried to claim that all roads lead to the Mile High City, but officials say they're not losing their heads in their battle with Chicago and Dallas to lure Boeing Co.'s headquarters.

"Denver has always thought itself the center of the universe and couldn't understand why anyone would want to be anywhere else," Colorado historian Tom Noel said.

Boeing representatives made a second visit to Denver this week, where they were courted by civic leaders and tailed by helicopter news crews. Their hosts were a group called Boeing 100 - former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway and other businessmen and celebrities organized to sell the city's special qualities. Boeing teams got similar VIP treatment in Dallas and Chicago.

Boeing plans to announce its choice in May and move by September. About 500 jobs will accompany the headquarters.

Noel, author of numerous books on Colorado and Denver, said the Boeing bid reminds him of the battle in the 1860s over the Transcontinental Railroad.

Engineers for the Union Pacific were leaning toward building the railroad through Wyoming because of the gentler terrain leading up and over the Continental Divide. William Byers, founder of the Rocky Mountain News, scolded them for not considering a route through Denver, saying there were "only a few hills west of town."

Grenville Dodge, the railroad's chief engineer, and his team were invited to Denver and were wined and dined. During an inspection of the most likely route over 11,300-foot Berthoud Pass, the railroad builders were buried up to their waists in snow. They chose the Wyoming route.

Snow also greeted the first Boeing delegation to Denver on April 11. A spring blizzard briefly shut down Denver International Airport, one of the city's big selling points because of its size and efficiency.

City officials were quick to point out the airport was No. 1 in the nation last year for on-time arrivals.

Denver's promoters in the past were prone to exaggerate the city's advantages. The now-defunct Denver Times predicted in 1900 the city would become the nation's capital.

A century later, city and state officials don't think they have to exaggerate to attract Boeing. They tout the area's educated work force and abundant recreation, and have said they won't get into a bidding war with tax incentives.

For at least 25 years, Colorado has been of two minds about growth. After Colorado won the 1976 Winter Olympic bid, state voters rejected funding for it and the games went to Innsbruck, Austria.

Nike considered moving part of its headquarters in 1998, and Colorado developers proposed the wide open vistas of Table Mountain west of Denver. Nearby residents denounced the plan and Nike remained in Oregon.

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