Denver began a significant population decline in the 1970s, which continued into the 1990s, dropping to 468,000 residents (recorded in the 1990 census), and nearly falling behind a surging Jefferson County. Denver, like most older American core cities, was led by a tired, big city machine, and watched an exodus of residents to the suburbs, acerbated by school busing.
But new political leadership, joined by willing a business community, began a renewal in the mid-1980s that invested in major infrastructure projects and a series of policies to jump start the city’s economy and growth. By 2000, the city was back with the population above a half a million residents.
The 2010 census shows Denver broke 600,000 for the first time in its history and is again the largest county in the state.
While Denver lost population for about 20 years and is now 22 percent of the total metro population, down from 42 percent in 1970, it managed to maintain its economic position over the last 20 years.
In 1989, Denver collected 31 percent of the region’s sales taxes and today collects 29 percent. Denver’s investments in the Convention Center, sports facilities, airport, cultural facilities and a host of quality of life improvements in parks and transportation, among other items, have reinvigorated the city.
Even with two recessions, as of today, one-cent of sales tax collects three times what it did in 1989 for the municipalities and public agencies in the Denver metro area. The final 2010 figures show $400 million raised.