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Denver Firms Polish the Brass for VIP Visitors

While many ordinary Denverites have made plans to escape town this week for fear of traffic tie-ups and security snarls, companies that have deep roots in the Centennial State view the convention as the ultimate business opportunity.

Enterprises from Coors Brewing Co. to Qwest Communications to Denver-based law and lobbying firms such as Holland & Hart or Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck are looking to polish their brands with customers and clients.

“With Denver being our headquarters town, we were approached very early in the process in trying to attract the convention to Denver as an opportunity to showcase the company internationally,” said Chuck Ward, Qwest state president for Colorado.

Qwest, a telecommunications firm, has pledged up to $6 million in voice and data services for the convention. “What we’re getting out of our sponsorship is, we hope, a lot of brand recognition,” Ward said.

Getting credit for the Qwest brand during the convention itself isn’t exactly easy — it will not be known as the Democratic convention brought to you by Qwest.

“Obviously when the convention is on television, the Democratic Party is very guarded about their brand and their efforts to promote their candidate, so it’s going to be far more subtle,” Ward said. “We do have a signature building downtown that hopefully will end up in a lot of night shots in the city’s skyline. And we’ve been looking at various advertising and marketing opportunities with the delegates.”

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck might not have the budget of a company like Qwest, but the firm has planned activities all week.

The law firm is holding receptions each afternoon as well as formal events, including one for Western mayors. “We’re doing a lot of facilitating,” the firm’s CEO and managing partner Bruce James said. “This is a great opportunity for us to serve as a connection for the business and government communities.”

The firm isn’t getting paid for this political matchmaking, but James said he hopes it will foster goodwill for the 40-year-old firm. And even though James is a Republican, he’s still one of the city’s more enthusiastic residents about the Democratic convention.

“While the convention is, in some respects an ultimate partisan event, it’s really a nonpartisan activity that’s wonderful for the business community,” James said. “What a great showcase for the city. Even as a Republican, I plan to go to the acceptance speech at Invesco Field, and really just enjoy the whole festivities.”

Many convention-goers probably had not heard of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck before coming to Denver, but one company that everyone associates with Colorado is Coors, which is now part of Molson Coors. The company chipped in $1 million to the host committee to help lure the convention to the Rocky Mountain state.

“We have a long history here in Colorado,” Molson Coors spokeswoman Kabira Hatland said. “It’s a high-profile event that really showcases our city and our state. We wanted to help make that happen.”

Part of Coors’ donation includes the ethanol needed to power the convention’s fleet of flex-fuel vehicles. Coors uses spent yeast and waste beer from the brewing process to make fuel-grade ethanol, Hatland said.

The company has also donated beer that people — not cars — can drink.

Denver-based law and lobbying firm Holland & Hart, which is located in the middle of downtown, has opened its expansive conference center on the 32nd floor with sweeping views of downtown Denver and the mountains in the distance.

“We have a number of events that are being held at the office as a result of people within the firm being contacted by friends and business acquaintances,” said Larry Wolfe, the firm’s managing partner. The firm isn’t charging for the space. “We’re doing this as relationship building,” he said.

Holland & Hart is hosting a breakfast for the Nevada delegation, which includes Manita Rawat, an Obama delegate who is one of the firm’s attorneys from the Las Vegas office.

Although Pepsi is not based in Colorado, it is the marquee name of the city’s sports center where the convention is being held. Galen Reser, a top Pepsi lobbyist based in Washington, said his company donated $250,000 to the host committee and is also helping sponsor private receptions around town.

One branding opportunity Qwest found, Ward said, is in the gift bags all delegates received. One item is a Qwest-branded lanyard for delegates to wear around their necks to hold their convention credentials. “Hopefully, that would show up in any interview with the delegates,” he said.

Qwest, like other companies and groups, plans to host receptions and parties this week. Tuesday evening, at the Denver Art Museum, Qwest CEO Ed Mueller will fete the delegates from the 14 states where the company operates.

But Ward said the convention isn’t necessarily a lobbying opportunity for Qwest’s policy agenda. “This is not a unique opportunity for us to have policy discussions,” he said. “That said, it is a way for us to further develop our personal relationships with folks, influencers.

“Policymakers are going to be more focused on the convention,” he added. “They aren’t going to want to talk about universal services reform.”

Not everyone, though, plans to get in on the convention action. The lobbying group National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which is headquartered in Denver, has no plans to mark the convention, the group’s D.C. lobbyist Colin Woodall said. “We’re not participating in either convention this year,” he said.

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