Gov. Jared Polis touched on a range of topics, including education, transportation and aerospace, during his State of the State address to the Pikes Peak region's business community Thursday.
Polis discussed how COVID-19 impacted every dimension of life during the past year, costing lives, jobs and economic stability. However, he also emphasized lessons learned that Coloradans can capitalize on moving forward to strengthen the economy locally and statewide.
"This has been a tough year socially, emotionally, economically and, of course, from a health perspective, but we have the opportunity to build back stronger, to really have a vision what wasn't working before and wasn't good enough," Polis said. "We have enormous opportunities to streamline and optimize the way we live, to take what works from the way we lived in the past year and make it a more efficient new normal for everybody."
During the pandemic, work transitioned online. Colorado reduced its office footprint by 1 million square feet with 70% of the workforce telecommuting during the height of the pandemic, Polis said.
The major shift proved that online work is possible. With 1% of workforce telecommuting pre-pandemic, the new normal is expected to be between 20% and 30% working remotely, Polis said.
Education also shifted online for many schools, but proved to take a toll on students' social, emotional and educational well-being, Polis said.
That's why the state made a push to get students back into classrooms as soon as possible, as safely as possible Polis said.
"The ramifications are more than just the kids' education," Polis said. "It's about people being able to work."
Polis also identified transportation as an issue the state must tackle over the next 10 years because of the role road connectivity and traffic play in bolstering the economy.
Polis wants to focus on spreading costs for roads by making sure those who drive electric vehicles still pay their fair share of what other drivers pay on gas taxes and noted that the Legislature is working on a transportation package to address funding.
"In any package like this, nobody is going to get everything they want," Polis said. "But it fundamentally prevents the deterioration of the funding for our roads."
Polis sees opportunity for growth in the state's aerospace sector includes aerospace, despite President Donald Trump's decision to move U.S. Space Command from Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Ala.
"I know that we all have a bit of disappointment over recent events," Polis said. "But the truth is advanced industries like aerospace have never looked better in Colorado."
Polis cited Colorado's unique "ecosystem" of companies, military assets and space research as potential areas for growth.
"It's going to take all of us to build back stronger," Polis said.