Ritter: Denver in running for nonstop Tokyo flight | AspenTimes.com

Ritter: Denver in running for nonstop Tokyo flight

Colleen Slevin
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Gov. Bill Ritter made a pitch to help Denver win its first nonstop flight to Asia during a 10-day trade mission to Japan and China and also promoted the state’s renewable energy and biosciences industries.

Ritter and a 40-member delegation returned home without signing any major deals, but the governor said Wednesday they drew interest in how wind and solar energy is being harnessed in Colorado.

Ritter said several companies were interested in opening renewable energy operations in North America, but he didn’t provide any details. He said they expect President-elect Barack Obama will make renewable energy part of his economic stimulus package.

Ritter said interest in renewable energy was high even in China, which many experts believe has surpassed the United States as the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases.

He said deputy Chinese foreign minister He Yafei, the highest-ranking official he met with in China, said leaders there realized they had to reduce emissions.

“We in Colorado can be a part of the answer, that growth like that can take place but with an eye toward reducing carbon emissions,” Ritter said.

He acknowledged that competition is stiff. Ritter said he was the 10th U.S. governor to court Beijing this year and his visit came just a day after a visit by Oregon’s Ted Kulongoski.

China is the third-largest market for Colorado exports. Japan is the fourth-largest after being surpassed by China in 2006.

The trip cost about $190,000. It was mostly paid for with private money but about a third will come from public dollars. About $40,000 will be paid from a tourism promotion fund supported by gaming revenue and up to $30,000 will come from the regular state budget. The exact figures aren’t known yet, Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said.

Ritter said the cost was justified despite the economic slowdown because in the long term the trip could lead to more jobs and business opportunities for Colorado companies.

Republican state Rep. Frank McNulty said Ritter should focus more on keeping the jobs Colorado already has. He said Ritter’s push for more regulation on the oil and gas industry and a move to block a scheduled drop in property taxes to raise more money for schools could cost the state jobs.

Denver International Airport has been trying to win daily, nonstop service to Tokyo for about five years. Denver mayor John Hickenlooper visited Japan in May to promote the airport’s pitch to All Nippon Airlines.

During his visit, Ritter said ANA promised to send a delegation to Colorado next spring. If Denver is selected, flights wouldn’t begin until 2010.

DIA research director Laura Jackson said other cities trying to win an ANA flight include Boston, Las Vegas and Seattle.

The delegation included airport manager Kim Day, state economic development director Don Elliman, executive vice president of the Denver Chamber of Commerce Tom Clark, Denver city councilman Michael Hancock and Colorado State University interim president Tony Frank.

Representatives from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of Colorado and the Colorado School of Mines also went along.

CSU signed agreements with four schools and institutions in China and Japan to collaborate on research and foster student exchanges.

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