Dave Davia is one of those players in Colorado politics who helps align the sun, moon and stars to make things happen — while leaving center stage to others.
His motivation? "I am fiercely proud of our state and the things that make it such an incredible place to live...," he tells us in today's Q&A.
His calling card — as longtime point man for two venerable contractor trade associations, representing their public-policy positions on the issues of the day — offers only a hint at his broader role. His superpower is serving as a convener of key stakeholders and a broker of ideas, all in service of the community and state where his roots run deep (five generations deep).
Sometimes that means building support for proposals, like simplifying sales tax collections for the state's retailers. Sometimes it means shooting down proposals, like last fall's statewide tax hike for schools, "based on the negative impact that the proposed funding mechanism would have had on our working families," he tells us, "and the lack of accountability in the measure."
In other words, a man for all issues — who leaves plenty of room for his family, and reserves a special place in his heart for a particular Colorado nonprofit. Read on as he elaborates.
Colorado Politics: Your unassuming job title — to political outsiders, at least — belies what by all accounts is your role as an influential insider on major policy initiatives. You led last fall’s successful No on 73 campaign against that ballot initiative to raise taxes for schools; you’ve been instrumental in a legislative effort to simplify the Colorado sales tax for businesses; you are a player in the state’s perennial debate over construction-liability laws — even your LinkedIn page labels you “a behind-the-scenes leader.”
So, you’ve carved out a role as a pivotal but off-stage presence. How did you wind up with so many irons in the fire?
Dave Davia: I am fiercely proud of our state and the things that make it such an incredible place to live, work and raise a family. As a fifth-generation Coloradan and the parent of a young son, it is important to me to always look for opportunities to engage with and give back to our communities, so that we can continue to be proud of this state that we call home. As a former local elected official, I understand well the many issues and challenges we face to ensure that our future continues to be bright — and I know that we need to have a comprehensive view when considering all of these issues.
That’s really what drives me to focus on so many critical issues simultaneously and, honestly, why I was drawn to my current role at [the Colorado Association of Mechanical & Plumbing Contractors, or CAMPC] — an organization whose mission requires engagement on a number of issues that are so important to ensure our state continues to thrive.
As an example, education, taxes, construction liability, employment policies — these are all issues that will have a deep and profound impact on the Colorado economy. On jobs, on the cost of living, and on our quality of life. I don’t believe sitting on the sidelines is an option — as an individual or as EVP & CEO of CAMPC.
CAMPC is an organization dedicated to representing and promoting the interests of the general welfare of the mechanical, plumbing and HVAC industry in the state of Colorado. We engage in economic development, workforce training, labor relations and legislative advocacy with one single goal in mind: to create jobs and strengthen the construction industry for the hardworking men and women who through their work define our city’s skylines and are part of the fabric of the business community in Colorado.
We simply can’t afford to ignore major shifts in policy or legislative initiatives that intend to threaten or weaken the vitality of our industry or economy.
- Executive vice president & CEO of the Colorado Association of Mechanical & Plumbing Contractors (since 2007) and the Mechanical Service Contractors Association of Colorado (since 2013).
- Previously a longtime business systems consultant with Wells Fargo.
- Majored in business at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
- Board member, There With Care, since 2014.
- Fifth-generation Coloradans.
CP: Speaking of your job title, it could take up the backside of your business card: executive vice president & CEO of CAMPC and the Mechanical Service Contractors Association of Colorado. Tell us about the organization and your role in representing your industry at the Capitol and beyond.
Davia: CAMPC is a unique organization with deep roots in Colorado dating back 130 years, with a long history of innovation. In a nutshell, we represent the interests of the mechanical, plumbing and HVAC industry in the state of Colorado.
CAMPC provides management and specialized administrative services to Colorado-based trade associations, currently to a number of associations involved in heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, ventilation, plumbing, piping, and mechanical service throughout Colorado. Under various names we have promoted our industry and its members since 1889. Today we serve the needs of more than 160 member companies, and our numbers are growing. We are truly representative of the variety of firms in our industry.
In terms of labor relations, under the Mechanical Contractors Association of Colorado moniker, CAMPC has become a model for the nation. CAMPC facilitates and fosters this unique partnership to solve issues affecting the construction industry in Colorado.
As an example, workforce recruitment and development. Through an alliance, we have created one of the most effective, prestigious and reputable apprenticeship programs in the nation. We recruit a diverse pool of recruits from all walks of life — from veterans to high school students. We provide them with the training and experience they need to succeed in an industry that offers high-paying jobs and opportunity for growth.
One such program is called Veterans in Piping Program (or VIP), [which] started nine years ago and is operating in Colorado Springs in partnership with Fort Carson. We actively recruit veterans discharging from the military and provide them 16 weeks of welding training. Once they graduate we work to place them here in Colorado, or where the veteran wants to move. These veterans then are placed in an apprentice program and given one-year credit for the training, which helps to jump start their career post-military.
The cost of the program is 100% paid for by our employers and there is NO cost to the veteran. We are very proud to be part of this program, helping our veterans who sacrificed so much for us.
CP: Amendment 73’s defeat on last November’s statewide ballot was in no small part due to your efforts as chair of the campaign against the measure. The message of you and your campaign was that the proposal was the wrong answer to improving education. In comments to the media after the vote, you pointed to a lack of assurances in 73 that its new revenue ever would have found its way to better higher teacher pay for better student achievement.
What is the right way to improve our public schools? If more money is inevitably part of the equation, how do we raise that money?
Davia: Our opposition to Amendment 73 was in no way a lack of support for our schools. Many of our members or their families work in education, serve on education boards, and help build and repair schools across Colorado. We support and help operate five apprentice training programs, where we educate people to work in our industry, spending more than $2.6 million annually. Our opposition to Amendment 73 was based on the negative impact that the proposed funding mechanism would have had on our working families — and the lack of accountability in the measure.
A study released by the REMI Partnership found that without any guarantees of improvement in student performance, the $1.6 billion tax increase proposed by Amendment 73 would negatively impact the Colorado economy, cost private-sector jobs, and place a significant tax burden on Coloradans.
I strongly believe every child deserves to have access to an education that provides them with the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. Colorado is No. 1 in the nation in so many other statistics; it is time we become No. 1 in education. I don’t have all of the answers, but I know that a massive tax increase that is not tied to results is not going to make a difference for Colorado’s kids. I am committed to working with education leaders to find the right answer.
CP: What effect did last fall’s Democratic Party sweep in our state have on your industry’s stakeholders and their policy priorities, particularly at the Capitol? As a multi-generational Coloradan and a veteran of state policy and politics, do you believe the 2018 election was just another swing of the pendulum, or is Colorado on trajectory toward the left for the foreseeable future?
Davia: Colorado is a purple state. We have strong, common-sense leaders in both parties and we always have. In 2018, voters demonstrated a strong preference for one party but they also demonstrated a preference for fiscal restraint. That independent, maverick streak is something we Coloradans have always valued and appreciated.
However, one thing we know for certain is that change is constant. Colorado is changing. Our electorate is changing. And, our state is growing. How our leaders respond will dictate the political winds for generations to come. I hope they employ common sense and balance the economic needs of our state against our environmental needs to preserve our quality of life. To me, that is the winning equation.
CP: How, if ever, will Colorado adequately address its transportation-funding needs — and how will ascendant green Democrats and their apprehension about more highways affect that policy priority?
Davia: It’s no secret that for years, we haven’t funded transportation at a level to keep up with the need. Yet, voters said no to the proposed sales tax increase on the 2018 ballot. So what’s the answer?
Here’s what we know: Colorado traffic is bad, and it's getting worse. We may not be L.A., but we’re on our way. If you want to watch somebody get angry and frustrated quickly, just mention traffic.
I believe it’s like everything else; we need a balanced approach. To borrow a phrase from my friend J.J. Ament, “there is an answer somewhere between Utopia and the Apocalypse.”
We need a solution that balances highway construction with transit and new technology. We need a solution that includes both new revenue and money from the state General Fund. Finally, I strongly believe that voters will only pass a measure that clearly defines what they are going to get for their investment and instills some sort of accountability. In other words, let’s propose a funding mechanism and define what highways and technologies will be built. Colorado has a long history of solving tough problems, the Colorado way.
I have driven in Salt Lake City, Phoenix and many other parts of the country where transportation is funded, and it is a night-and-day difference to what we have here in Colorado. There is a solution for this problem, and I encourage leaders from both parties to work with the industry on a solution that will solve this for generations to come. This is a tough issue that needs a solution and should not be coupled with other issues for resolution; that will dilute the revenue stream and marginalize the solution.
CP: Name a current Colorado elected official in each party whom you admire, and tell us why. Do you have a favorite Colorado governor, past or present?
Davia: Calling out a favorite is sort of like trying to thank everyone at an awards event without forgetting someone or aggravating the audience with too long of a list of “thank yous.” I think I tend to identify with leaders who put the solution before interests. Today we are caught in partisan gridlock, with many elected leaders assessing how this vote, or that statement, will impact the next election. We cannot have effective governance without problem-solving that puts Colorado’s interests first. If we had more leaders that could identify with this, I am confident we would have better roads, an education system that outperforms every other state, a regulatory system and laws to support entrepreneurial spirit that would foster new businesses and retain those already in Colorado.
CP: Among your off-duty endeavors is your years-long work with the nonprofit There With Care.
Davia: I believe that to lead a full and meaningful life you have to give back to your community. It’s a core value that I hope to teach my son by example.
There With Care is an incredible organization. Their mission is to provide a wide range of services to families and children during the critical phase of a medical crisis. There With Care serves families by building a network of services and people who ease the burden of life’s day-to-day obligations with compassion and care. It is simply impossible to learn about this organization and not want to do everything you can to support this mission and these families.
As a father, I simply can’t imagine the pain and the challenges these families face every day. There With Care’s strategy is to bring community leaders together and match their generosity with a family’s need — everyone steps in and surrounds a family to take the daily stress on so that the parent(s) can spend their time caring for their sick child. Their army of volunteers inspire me, and the staff truly touches my heart with the compassion and care they provide the families they serve.