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Effects of 9/11 Still Felt by Colorado Business Community


The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were felt not only on a global scale, but also at a local level. KUNC’s Erin O’Toole talks with Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood about how the attacks affected business in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado.

O’Toole: Chris, ten years have passed since the September 11 attacks. Looking back, what effect do you believe the attacks had on the business community locally?

Wood:Certainly the human tragedy was the biggest effect of those attacks, and one that will remain with us as a nation and planet for years. I’m still hearing stories of local people, including from the business community, who were in Manhattan at the time of the attacks, who were on the phone with people during the attacks, or who lost friends and colleagues on that day. I still hear stories of narrow escapes, with people who had intended to be on one of those flights but who missed the flight for one reason or another.

O’Toole: We all certainly remember the economic slowdown that accompanied the attacks. Take us back to that time and remind us what was happening.

Wood:Everything stopped. Air service was canceled nationwide, which had an effect globally. Think of all of the airline employees and private pilots and support crews who weren’t working. A study by the University of Southern California estimated the cost to the airline industry and associated businesses at more than $200 billion.

The stock market never opened on September 11th, and it remained closed for almost a week. When it reopened on September 17th, it plunged more than 1,300 points, losing 14.3 percent of its value. That was a paper loss of $1.4 trillion.

The nation was already in an economic slowdown, but the attacks exacerbated that slowdown. Not a lot of business was getting done during those days, as the nation tried to absorb the news.

O’Toole: September 11th also created a new emphasis on homeland security. What local companies have been part of that mix?

Wood:The response to September 11th did create new requirements for security and intelligence, and local companies have responded.

One direct example is Hensel Phelps Construction Co., based in Greeley. Hensel Phelps is one of the largest construction companies in the world, and was just completing a renovation at the Pentagon when the attacks occurred. Subsequent to the attacks, the company quickly was awarded a contract to repair the damage caused.

You see many other examples. DigitalGlobe, based in Longmont has blossomed with the need for high-quality satellite imagery during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a response in part to the anthrax attacks that came shortly after 9/11, Colorado State University was selected to house the Rocky Mountain Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, a significant federal investment.

O’Toole: Those are some very high-profile examples, but smaller companies also changed how they did business.

Wood:That’s right. Airline security is the biggest example, and something that affects not only the business community but also anyone who flies. Tickets cost more, and the security measures have greatly affected everyone in terms of the time required to actually get on board. And whole new lines of business have been spawned simply by the limits imposed on carry-on liquids.

Security has also changed at both large and small companies.

O’Toole: I think the fact that the attacks affected security even at small businesses seems pretty incredible. What have we seen in that regard?

Wood:First of all, many large employers in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado completely overhauled their own security procedures, including how they accepted deliveries.

But smaller companies were affected, too. September 11 caused a wave of companies to develop security procedures, disaster-recovery plans and succession plans. One example on the security side is Anlance Protection, which the Northern Colorado Business Report ranked as the fastest-growing private company in 2002.

O’Toole: And I would imagine that examples like the ones you’ve cited were repeated many times over, not only locally but nationwide and around the world.

Wood: Absolutely.

As host of KUNC's Colorado Edition, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. And because life is best when it's a balance of work and play, I love finding stories that highlight culture, music, the outdoors, and anything that makes Colorado such a great place to live.
Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood helped create the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995. He previously served as managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. Chris discusses regional business and economic issues in Boulder County every other Thursday at 5:35 and 7:35 during Morning Edition.
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