Next month our Chair Todd Munson will hand off the Chamber gavel to Denise Burgess at our Annual Meeting. This smooth transition of leadership is special every single year, but this year is historic: for the first time, an African American will chair the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Denise has been a force in our business world and community since she returned to Denver in 1994. A small business owner in the male-dominated construction industry, she’s morphed her father’s heating and cooling company to a nationwide construction management firm, Burgess Services. And she’s done that while championing opportunities for women of color to find their path in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) studies and careers and in construction. Denise has also devoted herself to supporting small business in Colorado – our Chamber members have benefited from her leadership for years. And, she has raised a smart, talented, confident young woman herself – her daughter Maya.
When Denise’s peers in the business community were asked to describe her in one word, they all said the same thing: tenacious. We agree, but we won’t leave you hanging with just that. Here are a few more things you should know about Denise:
She’s passionate about education. Her family always encouraged education. In fact, her father Clyde had a saying: you can lose everything; you can never lose your education because with an education you can always succeed. Denise is a graduate of Leadership Denver, (Class of 2005, best class ever!) where she learned a great deal about the issues facing our region, including the challenges we face with educating our own kids in Colorado. She supports those women interested in construction and STEM through the Burgess Family Fund, donating to over a dozen Colorado organizations since the fund was started in 2013.
Her second home is the job site. While Denise didn’t think she wanted to come back to the family business (and it took her a while to – working in marketing and radio before returning), she’s now been with the business for over 20 years. And, after that time, she can’t get enough of the work sites – she loves to see things be built, and her team has worked on projects like the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building and the Westin at DIA.
She’s focused on the future. Denise is ready to celebrate our 150th, but she’s also looking to our next 150 years, whether it’s preparing our workforce, including our veterans through Boots to Suits, or focusing on housing. In fact, she’s exploring how her firm can develop workforce housing to make sure our workers can live near their jobs.
Rich Lewis of RTL Networks says it best: “Denise’s involvement in the community, it’s like she’s everywhere.” And, that’s just what it’s like being Chair of the Chamber – as Todd Munson can tell you he was everywhere on behalf of the Chamber. He led us through one of our busiest ballots and kept us focused on critical issues like our workforce, housing and our overall economic success. And, he even rode a few bike races in his Chamber kit. Thank you, Todd – you truly do ride for our brand and we’ve been so lucky to work with you!
Don’t miss Todd passing the gavel to Denise, celebrating 150 years of being in business or hearing about what’s next at our Annual Meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 6.
See you there!
Kelly Brough is the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber.