Littleton businesses banding together

New coalition says Penny’s vision is right on

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The new Littleton Business Coalition is “completely aligned” with City Manager Michael Penny’s vision, according to organizer Norman Stucker.

“If we’re not looking forward, our best days are behind us,” said Stucker, general manager of PADT, a mechanical-engineering from on Prince Street. His goal, he said, is to help shape Littleton as a 19th Century community with a 21st Century business environment.

Echoing that sentiment, Penny pointed to recent circumstances leading to a “grand reopening” of sorts for the city, including outreach to gauge future needs.

“It’s that next generation that’s going to take all that you guys say you love, and tweak it and make it theirs,” he told the group assembled at South Denver Cardiology for a breakfast meeting Dec. 6.

The group already has 54 members, with representatives ranging from mom-and-pops to Littleton Adventist Hospital, the city’s largest employer. Although it’s organized through the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, it’s not necessary to be a chamber member to attend.

Stucker wants the group to focus more on commercial business than retail, but there are lawyers, coffee shops, nonprofits and everything in between represented now.

Penny told them the city’s well-being depends on the success of the whole spectrum.

“You’ll never hear me say we need more sales tax,” he said. Although it’s the main source of city revenue, the ability to maintain levels of service depends a lot on business-use tax, which depends on development - of which there hasn’t been much over the last several years.

“What we had is a reputation, and really, in the development world, people were starting to look elsewhere.”

In the year he’s been here, Penny has led the charge on changing code, processes and perspectives in an effort to turn on the city’s “Open” sign. He says there’s about $125 million worth of projects - in stages from chatter to shovel - that could come to fruition in the next six to 18 months. He’s eyeballing aging shopping centers, empty dirt, infill and redevelopment as potential paths to improvement.

Penny said he wants his message to be that the city is creating a foundation for business to thrive, while getting out of the way and letting people live their lives.

“The end game shouldn’t conflict with who we are as a community,” he said.

Marcel Venter got that message loud and clear. When deciding where to locate his graphic-design firm, Spur, he checked out communities from Cherry Creek North to South Broadway. He was drawn to the historic nature of Main Street, and ended up remodeling the old beauty school on Prince Street.

Once there, the South African native said he felt accepted right away.

“It’s the people,” he said. “… I’ve never experienced such community embracement. I love that nobody is out of bounds for anybody.”