Everything we do at the Denver Metro Chamber – from influencing policy to creating connections to building our economy – is about one thing: putting Coloradans to work. That work takes on a different meaning when we consider who is – and more importantly isn’t – able to access jobs with good pay and benefits in Colorado.
We have one of the top economies in the nation, but that doesn’t mean anything if many people in our community aren’t able to access the opportunities generated from that growth. Of people in the Denver metro area who make the average annual wage of $68,357 or higher, only 35% are women, even though we make up 49.9% of the population. Black and Latinx metro area residents represent only 12% of people making the average annual wage or more, even though they are 25% of the population.
We also know that Black and Hispanic Coloradans are disproportionately represented in our prison population. Black Coloradans make up 12% of arrests and 22% of the prison population, but only 4% of our state’s total population. Hispanics make up 28% of arrests and 20% of the prison population, but only 19% of the state’s population.
These disparities are examples of the data that drive our work through Prosper CO. We’re committed to move even more Coloradans into jobs that pay well and have good benefits and identify and remove the barriers that prevent more women and people of color from accessing those great jobs. Read about our goals and strategies.
And, Colorado’s spirit of collaboration and innovation is already helping us see the impact we can have by working together. The Other Side Academy (TOSA) is an example of just that. TOSA is a free, two-year residential program that offers vocational training, education, peer counseling, mentoring, leadership training and transitional services as an alternative to incarceration.
Andrew Schmidt, a Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation board member, a 2015 Leadership Denver alum and TOSA Board chair, was instrumental in bringing TOSA to Colorado. We visited TOSA in 2016 on our Leadership Exchange trip to Salt Lake City. Andrew, along with an advisory council from that trip and in collaboration with TOSA in Salt Lake City, paved the way for the nonprofit’s first expansion site here in 2019.
While living in a peer-led community of accountability and honesty, the students established and operate a moving company that will be a self-sustaining, social enterprise. Andrew told us Friday that he had just learned that TOSA had its first official month of profitability in March – two months ahead of projections.
Beyond becoming profitable in March, TOSA is achieving some major milestones.
- The Other Side Movers have completed more than 1,000 moves in under two years and received over 300 five-star reviews in Denver.
- TOSA has hit capacity at its existing facility and will move into its newly remodeled home in June. This allows the organization to double its capacity, expand its social enterprises and save more lives in our region.
- The first group of students is on pace to graduate from the two-year commitment in May. Andrew said that four out of five of the soon-to-be graduates have decided to stay a third year to become student leaders and “continue serving the community that saved them.” The fifth student is already hired by a local company and finishing his two-year stay.
How can you support TOSA? Hire them! Andrew, a customer himself, said, “You’ll be blown away by the service and value, but more importantly, you’ll witness the power of transformation at work.” Learn more at theothersidemovers.com.
We are doing so much to ensure everybody gets a fair chance to have a good job. You can help. If you would like to also become a fair chance employer or take part in any other Prosper CO programs, please contact Lorena.Zimmer@denverchamber.org.
Kelly Brough is the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber.