Colorado Business Hall of Fame: Stories of Grit, Grace and Grand Vision

Colorado Business Hall of Fame: Stories of Grit, Grace and Grand Vision

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(gentle music) - For more than 30 years the Colorado Business Hall of Fame has been celebrating the past, the present and the future of business in Colorado. It is really celebrating the life and the motivation and the engagement of some amazing business leaders that have set the foundation for what we see in all of our communities today. - We started the Colorado Business Hall of Fame to honor the men and women who helped build Colorado into the powerhouse that it is. - What makes this program so unique is that it benefits two great organizations, nonprofits, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. - The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce has been around 153 years.

We're Colorado's longest operating organization in the state. We were here before it was a state and so, what's so wonderful about that is we have had generations of business leaders who've been working with us and our current members are 3000 business members with 400,000 employees. - And then Junior Achievement Rocky Mountain which supports tens of thousands of young people every year throughout the front range.

- Junior Achievement is building a more equitable and successful future for students particularly those who are economically disadvantaged through our huge network of volunteer role models JA delivers practical lessons and mentoring that inspire an enterprising spirit and helps students gain valuable career skills and financial literacy. I cannot imagine two better organizations to partner in highlighting leadership. We're trying to show our children and our future leaders what we value and what we want them to aspire to be like. - Everywhere you look, they've left their footprint. - You know what I love is the laureates really share their stories. Every one of us sees a story in there we can relate to and particularly for our youth and it can inspire them and touch them and give them a sense of hope and possibility.

- Some of our laureates like Barney Ford who risked his life, escaping slavery became one of the most successful business leaders of his time. - Barney Ford is considered a true hero in Breckenridge's history. He's also one of the founders of our state. - This is a man born a slave and ultimately becomes a very successful entrepreneur in the American West. - [Narrator] Known as The Black Baron of Colorado, Barney Lancelot Ford was born in Stafford Courthouse, Virginia in 1822.

- His mother was an African American enslaved woman. His father was the land holder, slave holder. - Barney Ford eventually escaped from St. Louis and made his way via the underground railroad to Chicago and that's where he met his wife Julia.

- [Narrator] Barney followed the gold rush to Colorado. - He was here in Breckenridge in 1860. He started getting gold out of the ground and he was chased off.

Men of color did not have real property rights here and this was Utah territory in 1859 and '60 - [Narrator] As legend has it, Barney buried his gold on a Breckenridge mountainside now called Barney Ford Hill. Barney went to Denver and opened a barbershop, restaurant and even several hotels. - The barbershop was in the basement, restaurant saloon first floor, boarding house second floor family's apartments, third floor.

And you know how he got people there? He offered free carriage rides from union station to his establishment. - [Narrator] Today this building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. - He went on to build the Inter-Ocean Hotel in Denver. He built a restaurant and hotel in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was not just a Denver businessman, he followed the gold rushes. - [Narrator] After returning to Breckenridge, The Ford's built this home on a city block that he owned and opened a restaurant called Fords Chophouse.

- He served seafood, fresh-caught oysters that were brought to Breckenridge on the railroad. He actually went and fished trout in the local river. A hundred years before the modern civil rights movement Barney Ford was walking his way to Washington DC he was risking his status as an escape slave. - The first draft of the Colorado state constitution did not include a provision for black suffrage. So Barney Ford met with leaders he lobbied in Washington and when a second draft of the constitution came out, it included a provision for black suffrage which Barney Ford had worked very hard to include.

- [Narrator] A wealthy man by this time, Barney turned his talents to education. - And he establishes the night school to teach people to read and write. - He suffered through so many challenges in his life through fires at his businesses, through bankruptcies and he was able to personally get back up on his feet every time and try again while also helping those around him. - [Narrator] Barney Ford's tireless efforts are commemorated with the stained glass portrait in the Colorado State Capitol. (gentle music) - So in 1867, the Chamber of Commerce, it was called the Board of Trade then, was established, and at that same period of time what you also saw were people coming to Colorado to start a new life. Whether it was Barney Ford or Adolph Coors.

And I think one of the things we're very proud of in Colorado is they both successfully did that very successfully. (upbeat music) - Adolph came to Colorado, he immigrated through Baltimore Harbor coming through Golden he found a wonderful source of water here and some of his German friends in Denver said, "well, we should start a brewery." So, on 1873, he and a partner started a (indistinct) company. - [Narrator] In 1874, the company was making 800 gallons of beer a day and by 1890, Adolph was a millionaire, a U.S. citizen and an award-winning brewer, then came prohibition. - Adolph had purchased a small pottery company here in Golden and it became what is now called CoorsTek that kind of helped us get through.

We also used our malting facilities to make malted milk. And at one time we were the largest supplier of malted milk to the Mars candy company. First amendment which appealed prohibition opened up the doors in 1934. - [Narrator] William Bill Coors joined the family business as a chemical engineer in 1939 and was elected to the board of directors in 1973. - Extraordinary growth and a lot of innovation in terms of tech brewing technology particularly Bill Coors was so focused on finding ways to be more efficient and do things better, and the development of the aluminum cans it was so appealing that everybody had to convert whether they wanted to or whether they didn't.

The consumer acceptance of that package was just the most unbelievable thing. - They developed a recycling program to turn as many cans as it could possibly return. - I think the cans are here to stay.

Our average consumer lived a thousand miles away but we developed what we called cold sterile fill packaging. We developed refrigerated marketing. - [Narrator] Peter H. Coors was born in Golden in 1946.

After graduating from Cornell with an engineering degree his first job with the company was in the waste treatment plant. - I was overpaid for the job. It was a learning experience, and from there, through most of the aspects of brewing and the mechanical systems and so forth. One historic event which changed the course of Coors was in 1978 when Pete led the family to coming out with Coors Light. - [Narrator] In 2005, Coors merged with Molson and then in '08, MolsonCoors and SAB Miller, formed a joint venture.

- It's been a progression of activities that have been designed really to allow us to survive and compete successfully against our biggest worldwide competitors. In spite of all the issues and challenges that we've had over the years, no one has ever really taken a shot at the quality of our product, they like our beer. - [Narrator] Pete was named chairman of Coors brewing company in 2002 but stepped down briefly while running for the Senate in '04.

- I was inspired really to not believe that I could make a difference. - He cares deeply about the community he lives in. - Boy Scouts, the Stock Show, CU hospital, the Denver Art Museum Foundation, Colorado Succeeds. - [Narrator] Pete is also the president and trustee of the Adolph Coors Foundation.

- Which was founded after Adolph Jr. passed away. The fact that we've been able to build that foundation into an institution that's able to do good things for our community. - Well, everybody looks back at Coors Field now and thinks it was so obvious, right? And the Colorado Rockies of course they're are gonna be a big success and when Coors stepped up and said, "all right we'll pay the millions of dollars and we'll put our name on this field," that was a huge, huge, giant step in the credibility of the Colorado Rockies. - Adolph, Bill, my uncle, my dad Joe left us all a legacy of not only in the business world but in terms of, our service to the community.

We only have a little so much time on the planet and, to do the best we can is, and prepare the next generation is what we think is most important. - Coors brings thousands of tourists to our state every year and what's fascinating to think about is that when Adolph was building his business in Golden, Colorado Mary Elitch was building another Colorado landmark right here in Denver. - A single woman on the frontier of the American West with a large business to run and she doesn't skip a beat.

- [Narrator] Known as The First Lady of Fun, Mary Elitch Long was a pioneer business woman and community activist. Mary Hawk was born in Philadelphia in 1856. - Her family moves to California and at age 16 she meets, falls in love and marries John Elitch. They end up coming to Colorado to build a new life and she and her husbands ultimately end up starting Elitch's and he is quite a bit older than her and passes away.

- [Narrator] As a result, Mary Elitch became the first female zookeeper, the first woman to run a botanical gardens and one of the first women to own a theater in the United States. Elitch's was the first true zoo in the West to have tigers and lions and elephants and all these exotic animals. Elitch's had an area where the bears would cap and every day Mary Elitch would go in and hand-feed these bears. So clearly this was a very brave woman. - [Narrator] Mary was short on cash and sold the majority of the garden's stock to a group of Denver capitalists.

She remained with the company and regained total control over the gardens in 1894. - So what we see is her as a leader with tenacity, business acumen, able to deal with the struggle of business. - [Narrator] In 1899, Mary married Thomas Long. - While they're in Europe they see amusement parks that have fun amusement rides, roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, those kinds of things and Mary brings that idea back to Denver. - And what she ended up doing was creating summer theater where it wasn't creating bands, concerts just entertainments, and doing it in a place like Colorado there was, heck the Stock Show was just getting formed in 1906.

- [Narrator] Over the next 20 years, Mary provided high quality low cost entertainment for visitors from around the world. - I think of her as someone who was part of all of that growth of Colorado where she was a female leader at a time that it wasn't easy. - Just as Elitch's continues to delight families in the year 2020 and beyond, we are also celebrating another family who's had a very big impact on arts and culture here in the Denver Metro Area, the Cousins Family. (gentle music) - [Narrator] It's impossible to travel through the streets of North Denver and Five Points without thinking of the Cousins Family and how the rich history of property, philanthropy and music stretches throughout their lives. Charles L. Cousins was born in Big Stone Gap, Virginia in 1881.

- The family moved to Atchison, Kansas. - [Narrator] He had to quit school after the sixth grade to help contribute financially to the family. - Being born in 1881, he really represented the first generation post-slavery. - [Narrator] He purchased his first home at the age of 17. - My grandfather and his wife Alta moved to Denver in 1909. - He was a self-made man in every regard he taught himself the trades, built his own properties and in doing so inspired Charles Jr. to be a self-starter.

- And he did this on a Pullman Porter salary. - Charles and Alta Cousins were pioneer members of the historic Zion Baptist Church. - By the time that the depression came, my grandfather had enough properties to be able to house people who would have otherwise been homeless. And he did that at no cost because he had a conscience.

- What was extraordinary about both Charles Sr. and my grandfather is that they were part of what was really the vanguard of the civil rights movement. They unionized, they too were really part of an important evolution of race relations in the history of our country. - [Narrator] Charles R. Cousins was born in Denver in 1918. - There was four girls before I came along and so, they said they had a little brother and when I go through Five Points now they say, "hello brother." Everybody calls me brother.

- He was part of that generation that worked on the railroad. In order to work on the railroad you had to have certain characteristics if you were black. You had to be handsome, you had to be very verbal linguistically and being able to talk to people. - [Narrator] Charles R. Cousins was born in Denver in 1918. He married Dorothy Elizabeth Caldwell in 1947. - He was a firefighter, he was a cookie store owner, he was a carwash owner.

He also accumulated property. (instrumental music) - Music was a very important component in his life. - I knew of every band that came into Denver because I like music that much. - He applied for and was issued the very first Jukebox's license. - From that I got into the Jukebox business in the late thirties and I've been in it ever since. - He promoted many, many musical events.

He was so proud to be nicknamed the Mayor of Five Points, unofficially, of course, but he was. - Although he was a friend and confidant colleague of the most powerful people in the city and the state he was also a friend and an advocate of the most humble. - All the boys at Manual High School always knew brother Cousins. If you were short of money and didn't have anything to eat brother cousins would give it to you. - Our family had been displaced. He provided housing for them.

I chose Charles Cousins to be named the Manual citizen of the century. - The license plate that he had on his car, IOU0 you know, he believed in financial independence and financial empowerment for himself. - My father and grandfather didn't achieve what they did in a vacuum. They had strong women behind them.

- He represented the best that the business world has to offer, but he also represented the best that human beings have to offer. - It's really inspiring to think about what the cousins had to go through to overcome insurmountable odds during the time they were successful in business. And it reminds me of another laureate's story who also overcame incredible odds, the story of Bob And Joanna Sakata. - They're very friendly, they're very humble, even though they're farming over 3000 acres of ground out there, high value land. - [Narrator] Located in Downtown Brighton, Sakata Farms is one of the most successful farming operations in the United States. Known for legendary sweet corn, the heart of the farm is really its founder whose drive for success in the face of adversity is a template for the American dream.

The youngest of four, Bob Sakata was born in 1926 in San Jose, California. - My dad had a little truck garden farm in a little town called El Dorado, California. My mother caught pneumonia and without penicillin, then well, didn't recover and she passed away when I was six-years old. - [Narrator] Life for the Sakatas was forever changed with a Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. - It's probably the most concerning and embarrassing thing that I've gone through throughout my life. - [Narrator] The Sakatas were sent to live in an interment camp in Utah.

- We were allowed to carry one suitcase and the bus took us to the Tam Fran racetrack because the permanent interment camp was being built and it was not finished. We were all assigned a horse stall to live in. - He came out of camp early and he left on his own and finished high school in Brighton. - [Narrator] He worked for dairy farmer Bill Schrutter. - He called me into his home for dinner and said, "I bought you a 40-acre farm, call your family to Colorado." - Joanna Sakata was born in Brighton in 1935.

- And I saw this beautiful young girl out in the field every day. - We've been married about 60 years but I count it as 120 because we've been with each other 24/7. - They work as a team, that's how marvelous. Joanne is very key to that operation.

- And he and Joanna when they sold that little plot could easily have just taken the money and sort of semi-retired or something, but instead they traded up for land and got more farms. (machine whirring) - These folks have brought a state-of-the-art farming operation to the Brighton community and have been leaders and provided jobs. It's amazing, this guy does everything. He does public policies and he's a vendor like for instance ice maker, that was one of Bob's inventions. He invented this fancy corn-picking machine.

- [Narrator] In addition to farming, the Sakatas are entrenched in the community. - Since the beginning of the hospital movement, Bob and Joanna have been one of the largest contributors. He became interested in public education in Brighton and became member of the board. - He's a marvelous teacher in the sense that he has a philosophy of hard work, diligence. - [Narrator] Over the years, the Sakata Operation has made its mark internationally.

Most notable was a visit from the emperor and empress of Japan. - Here are the rain camps and here comes the emperor. - I forgot all about the protocol. I ran up to him, shook his hand and I told him in Japanese that my father always told me the emperor was like God, now I believe him.

It was raining and we needed it, now soon as you come, well, it stopped raining. And, from there on, we didn't follow any protocol. - They were really nice and gracious and, you felt like you've known them a long time. - I can't say enough about this guy and furthermore, he puts a smile on my face he's stood up in more than one banquet that I've presided over and said, "hey, why don't you change the menu here, I don't see enough onions or broccoli or something like that." He has a good sense of humor.

- Oh, I eat an onion a day. In spite of that, I still had three children (laughs). - An American dream right here in our presence in our time. - I think what really moved me was as Japanese Americans, they suffered greatly at the hands of our country and yet what they expressed to a thousand people in that room that night was their incredible love for this nation.

The principles upon which we were founded and their belief in those and, I think it moved me because I realized forgiveness is a big part of success too. - You know, I love the Sakata story. I know the Sakata family very well and Bob Sakata is definitely a true patriot even after all the challenges and some of the struggles that he had here in the United States. And that's really a common trait that we see in all of our laureates. Bill Daniels, in fact, was a patriot and a war hero.

- Bill Daniels lived the beliefs and ethics and honesty and caring. - [Narrator] Robert William Daniels Jr. known as Bill Daniels was born in Greeley, Colorado in 1920.

The family moved to New Mexico and Bill attended the New Mexico Military Institute. He was awarded the bronze star for heroism as a combat naval pilot in World War II. - Bill had been involved in the insurance business at an occasion he got to watching television. - My first look (indistinct) what an invention that is. Picture and sound into a home at the same time, I couldn't get over that. - And realized that there was a potential industry.

- I got them to Wyoming, I thought there gotta be a way that you can get television to small towns. I don't know what that way is, but there's gotta be a way. So I wanted to work on the project and got it done. - [Narrator] Bill founded Daniels & Associates and the firm operated in broker deals for hundreds of cable systems around the country.

- But where he really made the big difference was in financing. Building cable systems was not cheap, and in that way, he really was the father of the business in a very meaningful way. - People had confidence in Bill and all you had to do is be around him for a few minutes. People were attracted to him and wanted to work with him and he responded by being the soul of integrity and that built a great business in Daniels & Associates. - [Narrator] Bill's vision attracted technology and communication companies to Denver, an avid sports fan, Bill saw the importance of regional sports production and programming.

- That to this very day, when I watch the sporting event taking place for the forum in Los Angeles in my living room, in Denver, Colorado I have a hard time believing what I'm seeing. - [Narrator] And he also advocated for education and financial responsibility at a very young age. - Young American Bank serves kids from 21 down to zero. - Bill was one of the most generous human beings I think America has ever seen. - The reason I made the recent grant I have at the University of Denver Business School was to have a bootcamp with heavy emphasis on ethics, integrity. - The Daniels College of Business taught ethics and etiquette.

For the first time, I think of any business school in the country. - I was president of the University of Northern Colorado for a while, and one day I opened a letter from Bill included a $4 million check. We hadn't contacted and we hadn't asked for it.

- Bill gave the bulk of his estate to the Daniels Fund, a foundation to help other people. - It has filled the tuition gap of over 4,000 really needy and deserving students. - I think his biggest impact will not come from the millions and literally the billions of dollars he'll give away. I think the real impact will come in the way he's inspired everyone who knew about Bill in how they should live their lives.

- When you put your life in perspective, you realize how little time there is to make it something truly significant. My personal belief, it's what you leave that others can benefit by and what you're able to teach the younger generation. I believe if you live your life that way you leave this world with a clear conscience and you might even have a smile on your face. (gentle music) - Bill was such an inspiration and a real pioneer in the cable industry and while he was transforming the cable industry, there was another business pioneer transforming the ski industry. Klaus Obermeyer, always doing it his way.

- [Nome's Voice] The company is because of a man, is because of Klaus and he's, an enlightening fellow. - When you're around him, he just makes you happy and when you hear his yodel which is famous in the ski industry, (Klaus yodeling) it just sets your day. - [Narrator] Klaus F. Obermeyer was born in the small

Bavarian Alpine village of Oberstaufen in Germany in 1919. - I was lucky enough to have had a fairy-tale-like childhood. - [Narrator] With a background as an aeronautical engineer he obtained a permanent U.S. visa in 1947. - Klaus Obermeyer landed in New York with a $10 bill, two pair of (indistinct) pair of skis and boots.

- [Narrator] The absence of work on the East coast and his love of skiing brought him to Aspen where he started as a ski instructor. - And it was a ghost town and Friedl Pfeifer had the dream of making Aspen mountain a ski mountain. When I was three years old, I made my first pair of skis.

- [Narrator] But it was what he made from his mother's down comforter that attracted the most attention. - So I cut it up and I made a kind of a down parka out of it which looked like Michelin Man, you know, huge arms and horrible. They were warm going up and you could ski in it. And then eventually Gary Cooper bought it from me. - [Narrator] From humble beginnings Sport Obermeyer has revolutionized the ski industry, with one groundbreaking invention after another Klaus's ingenuity can only be topped by his incredible zest for life.

- Step by little step, tried to make skiing a little more comfortable for people. - From the first down parka, if you will, or pullover all the way through to the waterproof breathable fabrics that have come into play within the industry. The I-Grow cuff, which is so important in the kids' line.

- And we made unbreakable blue glasses that reflected like 99% of the ultraviolet rays. - We were the first company that had the ski stopper, the ski blades. - [Narrator] Sport Obermeyer also had the first fashion ski ad placed in ski magazine. - What's more important, fashion or function? And of course, they're one and the same. - And our dealers and our consumers, they are all our friends.

When I see somebody with an Obermeyer jacket I think I know him because (laughing) and I talk to him going up the lift, "hey you, how do you like your jacket?" - [Narrator] Klaus is also incredibly generous to his employees, from profit sharing to the powder rule. - One part was when it snowed more than six inches everybody could go skiing in the morning. - Transportation for the employees to encourage carpooling.

- I think one should always try to step on the planet as likely as that is possible. - Even doing his catalogs he tries to be green and not use up as much paper. - And he's a huge believer in the benefits of swimming.

So he said, "well, Wally, in a year I swim from Aspen to Denver and back." (Klaus yodeling) - He is an inspiration because he's in a business that he absolutely loves and believes in and wants everyone to enjoy the mountains the way he does. - It's interesting in life and in business, how strong an aim is because you're gonna end up where you aim to (laughing) you know.

- He's a tough act to follow, how's that? (laughing) - Klaus's energy is contagious, and that's really a common theme from all of our laureates, a commitment to their teams, their staff, their employees and most importantly, their community. - First and foremost, I see Judy Wagner as an excellent business woman, and her investment management firm was Stellar. And so from that base, she reached out and stood for women. - Her unselfish, generous, philanthropic approach to what she does is just amazing and you know, she has a true humility of spirit and it's beautiful to behold. - Judy is one of the most kind, generous, loving friends that I have ever had. - [Narrator] Judith Buck Wagner was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania in 1943.

- When the war was over, I ended up back in California a little town at the time called Fresno. My dad was a orchardist. - [Narrator] She followed in her mother's footsteps and attended the University of Washington. After earning her history degree, she planned on teaching.

- There was nothing in Seattle and nothing in Denver teaching history but I could get a job in the physical education department 'cause I'd minored in PE you really get to know the kids in this high-poverty school, and so that really gave me a good lesson about what was going on in the world and, from that job, I got recruited into the investment management business. - [Narrator] Judy's finance career took off and after working in Los Angeles and St. Louis, she landed at (indistinct) Company in Denver as a security analyst and portfolio manager in 1972. - She was also the first woman to have had to start her own a wealth management company and she was very, very successful in that, she ended up having, she started out by herself, she ended up having 15 employees.

- I just wanted to be independent and do the kind of research and investment analysis that I like to do which is very in-depth. - And there was a number of flexible work schedules at our office for some of the employees so that they could spend more time with their children and, I benefited from that. - [Narrator] Judy married Joe Wagner in 1980. - They also brought together an incredible family.

You know, they're a blended family. - [Narrator] In 2008, Judy sold Wagner Investment Management to Colorado Business Bank and became vice-chair of CoBiz Wealth until she retired in 2012. Judy was also instrumental in forming the Women's Bank and served as chair from 1977 until 1994. - Sometimes you couldn't open a checking account because you had to have your husband or your father or your brother co-sign.

I mean, how humiliating is that? - So, in 1975, just after that equal credit opportunity act was passed we were putting this bank group together to really be able to improve women's ability to finance their own projects. She was the chair of the Big Sisters board. She had a little sister for many, many years - The ripples of all these other initiatives of what she's done, the Women's Foundation and how many people are involved and how many lives that have touched. - I was trying to help people that were underserved, that's just been kind of my model.

- [Narrator] With a goal of helping change the future of women's health, Judy was on the founding board for the Center for Women's Health Research. - She got the the concept and she understood how important it was. - Medical research about women's diseases including breast cancer and heart disease is being done on men.

- Judy Wagner made this happen. If it had not been for her I don't believe the center would be here today. And it's not everybody who gets to see their dreams come true. - She's the reason I got into politics. People say, "well, women have to be asked." She didn't ask me to run, she told me to run, so I did.

She is a person who can smooth ruffled feelings. She's just a natural at bridging differences. - That sense of how she can wrap herself around her friendships, wrap herself around communities and give her whole self. - It's so inspiring to me really just to find the kinds of things you can do if you're anxious to help change some of the inequities that exist in our community.

- It's amazing to see Judy's dedication to changing the landscape on the business front here for women in Denver and throughout the state of Colorado, and there's another individual who's had a huge impact on his own community, Leonard Burch. - And in my heart I feel that he was chosen. He was a chosen man from the creator.

- [Narrator] Born in Southwestern Colorado on Christmas Eve, 1933, Leonard C. Burch was given the Indian name, Shining Star. - What a prophetic name to give to that young man? - [Narrator] Chosen by his people in 1966 as the youngest tribal chairman in history, Leonard transformed the Southern Ute tribe into one of the wealthiest. - He's the person that, not only had a vision but also was able to keep the people, his people together and keep the leaders kind of all moving in the same direction.

- As the people began to get more educated, they began to see that there might be a different way of a life on the reservation. - Which was a direction toward significant financial progress for the tribe stability in terms of economic development, but at the same time without sacrificing the traditions of his people. - [Narrator] Leonard's goal was that his people should be the beneficiary of their mineral wealth which would provide for the tribe's future.

- Prior to 1982, for example, Indian tribes couldn't even negotiate their own oil and gas leases. - So he worked with 24 other tribes to create an energy council. - [Narrator] Under his leadership, the Southern Ute tribe has become a major economic force in the Four Corners region. - They created the Red Willow Production Company, the gas production company which is one of the largest in Colorado today.

- [Narrator] He was also committed to regional water source development. He formed a coalition of Indian and non-Indian water users in the area and advocated for the Animas-La Plata project. - His concerns were about water and water rights and how water was managed.

His concerns were about scholarships for the children, education, health care. - He had this vision that, you know, the Southern Ute people could have the same standards of living that other people could. - He was expansive in his view and he wasn't just a talker, he was a doer. - The care that he had for people that the human being part of him just, I mean, it's shown through in any situation I saw him and I saw him in many situations whether it be in the Halls of Congress or whether it be saying good night to the cleaning ladies in his office. - His leadership was extremely well-respected.

In fact, he worked with five U.S. presidents and he formed the model for tribal prosperity. - It just shows that all his hard work and his dedication, his leadership and all the tough decisions he had to make had finally paid off. He's led his people to prosperity. - I look at it as he did it, not for himself or for his family, but for the membership.

- [Narrator] And although the Southern Ute tribe has lost their giant, his star will continue to shine in the lives of his family and his people. - Leonard's work as chairman of his tribe really changed the trajectory of that community in Southern Colorado. So too has Dana Crawford's impact on the landscape of Denver.

- We shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us. She is a force to be reckoned with, Dana has clear vision. She knows what she wants and she goes after it tenaciously. - [Narrator] Dana Hudkins was born in Salina, Kansas in 1931. She attended graduate school at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

After moving to Denver, she married John Crawford and the couple had four sons. - I kind of had fallen in love with Boston and it was a place that really respected its roots. So I wanted something like that in Denver and then I found the 1400 block on Larimer Street. - Her work at Larimer Square was truly groundbreaking, in the 1960s the entire country was engaged in a massive demolition of our historic downtowns.

- Couldn't talk about it anymore. I had to do something about it. John Crawford joined with me.

- [Narrator] They formed Historic Denver Inc. with the goal of preserving Denver's architectural heritage and saving The Molly Brown House. - We got the investors together and then we secretly began to assemble the property. I didn't realize how important it was gonna be on a national basis because everybody started coming in wanting to do the same thing in their towns. - [Narrator] Since the 1960s, Dana has redeveloped more than 800,000 square feet of historic properties. - Dana's touches seen all across the city, The Ice House which was initially a design center and then became one of the first loss in LoDo, early on she saved the Oxford Hotel.

- Everything I ever did, everybody said, "oh, there she goes again, she's crazy." And that was certainly true of the place where I live now I've been 21 years in the flour mill. - I think Dana having grown up in Kansas immediately was drawn to this reminder of her youth and saw the potential in it in a way that no one else ever had.

- And this is just a very cool place to live. - [Narrator] Dana has always seen the potential in Union Station as a cultural gathering place. In 2012, Dana and her partners, the Union Station Alliance transformed that station into the centerpiece of a new transit and mixed use development, including the Crawford Hotel.

- I called it the city's living room, but it just became so popular. It's so much fun to just sit there in the lobby and watch people walk in. They're just amazed. And then they walk through and walk out onto the Plaza in front of the Union Station and look at Downtown and see how vital it all is and they just say, "wow, this is a place where people care about their town." Well I think that architecture is one of the great art forms of our time. And, and it tells a story.

- [Narrator] Dana's vision is to build destinations. - She recognized that these historic buildings had this intrinsic value. This thing about them that we just, as humans loved and related to. - Like in the case of the Argo up in Idaho Springs, you know now a group of us are bringing it to life and, it's so rewarding. - [Narrator] In addition to saving the soul of Denver Dana is a dedicated philanthropist.

- She has been instrumental in the growth of History Colorado, the State Historical Society, Historic Denver, Colorado Preservation Inc. even in Trinidad, Colorado, where she worked to help develop artists' live work studios in that city. - I've been really in love with the Platte River which is such an important part of our community here. - She also is just a huge lover of life.

She enjoys getting together with people, just laughing telling jokes on occasional cocktail. - Well, I like to have fun (chuckles) and it's really hard to have fun if you don't have friends. And I have so many wonderful friends and we do have fun. - Dana famously sees potential in buildings that other people have just written off, and a lot of our laureates see the same kind of potential in their projects as well.

Jake Jabs is a great example of that. He saw some incredible potential in a business that had failed and no one thought it had a chance to go. He did, and he's made it something incredible.

(upbeat music) - Hi, I'm Jake Jabs. Hi, I'm Jake Jabs. - There will only be one Jake Jabs.

He's just really a maverick in the industry. - Is my mic on? - [Narrator] Through his foxy television commercials with exotic furry friends, Jake jabs has put himself and his business into the living rooms of just about every home in the region. One of nine children, Jacob Jabs grew up in rural Montana. He went to Montana State University and received a degree in vocational agriculture in 1952.

He worked his way through college playing music. - My brother and I had a band and I ended up teaching guitar in a music store in Bozeman. I also took ROTC, the Korean War was on, got a commission in the Air Force, served on the Air Force as a second Lieutenant.

- [Narrator] After serving Jake returned to Montana and bought a half interest in a music store in Bozeman. - Finally I decided that there wasn't a lot of opportunities in music and started selling furniture. - [Narrator] In 1974, Denver was hit with a recession and Jake saw yet another opportunity. - So I bought the old American Furniture Company, I bought their assets that was on their books for a million and a half dollars and I paid them 8,000 cash. - [Narrator] Jake renamed the business, American Furniture Warehouse.

- Jake has built quite an empire, and this is a dynasty it's an incredible operation. One that both manufacturers and retailers from all over the world would come to visit and shop and see. - Try to do it right the first time.

If you do it right the first time then people recommended you. - [Narrator] This philosophy (lion roars) paired with an undeniably unique advertising strategy made American Furniture Warehouse the talk of the town and turned Jake into a local celebrity. - Everybody knows Jake, Jake or John Elway are the two most famous people in Colorado. - So it's become a symbol with us, I don't own the animals you don't wanna own 'em (chuckles). - [Narrator] With the enormous success of the business Jake is able to help hundreds of charities and like everything else Jake does, he goes big. - There is no one I know that gives back more than Jake Jabs.

- We went to the Easter Seals Camp. We come through the door Jake's place and the whole room is packed with kids in the campers and they're chanting "Jake, Jake, Jake." It gave me chills. - Usually what happens is kids are dancing and singing on the stage with him by the time he's done.

And then he's done things like make newspaper space available when he does his ad he might tag it with, this is Easter Seals Week please come in and purchase furniture and he gives us the percentages of the sales. - You know, we had all the fires up in Boulder. He made sure he went out of the way to help the community, help those people.

- [Narrator] Jake has also been incredibly generous to his Alma mater, Montana State University which established the Jake Jab Center for Entrepreneurship. Very recently Jake gave the college a record-breaking $25 million which will be used to build a new business school. - So I'm trying to help them get that entrepreneurship spirit going.

- When he means is the state of Colorado is tremendous income to the state because if there was no American Furniture Warehouse there would not be another company like American Furniture Warehouse here. - So a metaphor of Jake when we were out playing golf once and he hit his drive out of bounds, he hit it way out, out on the beach and there was a cliff and he made sure he went down, he made sure he got his golf ball, but when he came up he had a whole handful of golf balls. That's Jake Jabs.

- There'll never be another Jake Jabs. So, having him in your life is pretty magical. - It's amazing what one person can accomplish with incredible drive, enthusiasm and of course, vision which reminds me of our next laureate who has incredible vision, John Sie. (dramatic music) - John Sie always works for innovation and always he's always finding new ways to think about a problem, new ways of addressing a problem, new ways of solving a problem.

- [Narrator] John J. Sie was born in Nanjing China in 1936. Through a series of events, John with his mother and brother took an empty cargo ship from Taiwan to San Francisco. Financial constraints forced the brothers into a Catholic orphanage in New York City. - We got a full scholarship to Manhattan college in the Bronx.

- [Narrator] After earning his master's degree in electrical engineering, John's first job was at RCA in New York City. - There are venture capitalists called I didn't even know what that meant, that could give us a million dollars to start a company. So I said, "let's go." And that's how we started Micro State Electronics. - [Narrator] After Micro State was acquired by Raytheon, John was looking for other opportunities. So he sought out John Malone.

- He just needed somebody to work on the new cable television vision. - [Narrator] From there John went on to work for Showtime. - So I was going out to see cable operators to say "why not carry both HBO and Showtime?" So that's how it started the multi-pay services today. - [Narrator] John joined John Malone at TCI. - Say, "why don't you come to Denver and make some real money?" (chuckles) So quickly I went back and took a 50% pay cut and came to Denver in 1984. - [Narrator] And had the idea to start Encore.

- If you can give me maybe five to $6 million I'll start a new service. - John and Bob both said, "if anybody can do this this is a great idea, John Sie can do it." Both of them always said, "if we had 10 John Sie's we wouldn't have any problems in the world." - And then 1994 we started the first run movie service Starz and the rest is history.

- John had amazing relationships with the movie studios to secure product, and then thought about creative ways to repackage that product to see what kind of a futurist we thought he was a little odd and we would go down the basement and there would be thought boards like, you know people will buy groceries through their televisions and we're like, "yeah, right." And you know, of course they do (laughs). - [Narrator] But perhaps his biggest contribution is turning America and the rest of the world onto HDTV.

- He seemed to be the single voice talking about a digital future. - I was laughed out of the room. - Thank goodness he was testifying before Congress. - Sees things, that I don't see necessarily. He just sees them and feels them. - [Narrator] One of John and Anna's biggest passions is Down Syndrome following the birth of their granddaughter.

- What they've done in creating that foundation is one of the best examples of social entrepreneurship I've ever seen. - I'm very proud of the "Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show" from a marketing perspective, from an awareness perspective. - He gives back in this program that he does with DU every year where they bring, dozens of Chinese executives and political and government officials to Denver to learn about the industry, the media business, that has been, had a huge impact. - Children's Hospital, Colorado and the research out at the Anschutz campus. - John is the one who planted the seed for the renovation that we're now undertaking of the North building designed by Gio Ponti. - Immediately, John and Anna said they would love to do something for this welcome center so it's going to be The Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center

of the Denver Art Museum. - His story is one of a kind, made a real difference (laughs) so it's, gosh, we need lots more John Sie's. (upbeat music) - When you think of the Colorado Business Hall of Fame you really are thinking about individuals whose stories are the most inspirational that you can possibly understand. You really wanna put them in a book and read about the man and women who have really transformed Colorado who have had the vision and who have had the grit and the determination and the perseverance to really make a difference. (upbeat music continues) - It is celebration of all the shining examples of rugged individualism, perseverance, risk-taking, the can-do attitude that has left an indelible footprint in shaping our great state through this entrepreneurial spirit of so many.

- The business leaders that we salute in the Colorado Business Hall of Fame have made profound impact on some very well known projects here in town, Anschutz Medical Center, Ellie Caulkins Opera House, parks, banks, institutions that you drive by probably every day and may never know who's connected to that. - It's so amazing because it encompasses everything from sticks and bricks and dirt to bytes and bits, fiber and light, and absolutely everything in between. - Tonight we're scratching the surface and just learning about 12 of the laureates that we have celebrated over the past 30 years. There are more than 170 plus other stories that you need to hear about. So I would invite everyone to go to to learn more about these very special leaders.

(gentle music) - You know, the world is tough and surprise surprise it doesn't owe us anything, and an even bigger surprise, it won't hand us anything either, not a career, not a paycheck, no degree, no retirement fund, no way, you gonna want it. You gotta say to the world, I'm gonna be amazing. I'm gonna take you by the horns and I will be a force of nature. You have to say to the world, move out of my way, I'm going places, I know what I'm doing and this is my time. - Now is our time. - Agreed.

And now a toast to us, Junior Achievement, a toast to you, the guests, and best of all, a toast to all of the Colorado Business Hall of Fame laureates, here, here! (crowd applauds) (gentle music) (upbeat music) - I think I'll give you a nice yodel because the one on the screen didn't come across. (crowd applauding) (Klaus laughing) (Klaus yodeling) Thank you. (crowd applauding)

2021-02-02 15:18

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