Mayor Mike Johnston is visiting Dublin alongside 50 power players with the hope Ireland will invest back in Denver

Denver has paid companies in the mayor’s Ireland delegation more than $1.2 billion in contracts since 2019.
4 min. read
Dennis Echer watches as Mayor Mike Johnston pats his grandson, Asher, on the head during Denver’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. March 16, 2024.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

On Tuesday, Mayor Mike Johnston took an early flight to Ireland.

On his trip, funded by Denver International Airport, he was joined by a delegation of nearly 50 Denver players in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

The group is celebrating the Friday launch of Aer Lingusfirst direct flight from Denver International Airport to Dublin Airport

The hope is the massive delegation can secure lucrative business deals for Denver.

Searching the city’s checkbook, Denverite identified more than $1.25 billion in payments over the past five years from the city to companies with representatives traveling to Ireland with the Mayor.  

Some of the groups represented on the trip with multimillion-dollar city contracts included Turner Construction, Accenture LLP, the Downtown Denver Partnership, Flatiron, Matrix Design Group and Visit Denver.

“The Mayor is making good use of his time in Ireland by meeting with companies who are interested in expanding their businesses to Denver, as well as by sharing best practices around pressing issues such as homelessness and immigration,” explained Jon Ewing, a spokesperson for the city. 

The city expects the direct flight to generate massive revenue for Colorado’s economy through tourism and business.

What’s the occasion for the trip and what will the mayor be doing?

“In the week leading up to the inaugural flight, a delegation of community and business leaders will have the opportunity to meet and engage with government, business and civic leaders in Dublin,” according to the mayor’s agenda. “The aim of this visit is to explore Ireland’s business environment, its entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem, tourism opportunities, as well as strengthen existing relationships and build new ones that will support the long-term success of the Aer Lingus flights and promote Denver to the Irish business community.”

According to the agenda, the mayor’s delegation will discuss a host of issues: urban cities, entrepreneurship, renewable energy and clean technology, bioscience, agtech, cleantech and fintech, aviation and aerospace, workforce development and sports, entertainment and culture. 

The beloved "secret" bridge security area at Denver International Airport. Oct. 28, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The agenda includes meetings with startups and businesses including the Irish software company Teamwork which has a North American headquarters in Denver. 

Johnston will enjoy meals with delegates and dignitaries, conversations with political higher-ups about homelessness and migration, and a pitch session at the Guinness Storehouse for corporations looking to expand to Denver.

Who’s joining the mayor in Ireland? 

DIA provided a list of delegates that includes business boosters and corporate leaders in construction, contracting, real estate, and technology, along with City Councilmember Amanda Sandoval; City Attorney Kerry Tipper; other city brass; and consultants who represent some of the biggest contractors, nonprofits, and government agencies in town.

Higher ups with the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Visit Denver and the Downtown Denver Partnership also went on the trip.  

Turner Construction, Flatiron, Matrix Design Group and Newmark are among the largest construction, development, engineering and real estate companies with representatives in the delegation. O'Neill Industries, a company involved in fracking and oil and gas, was also included.

Lori Fox, a consultant with Taloma Partners, came along. Her company works with massive contractors including Saunders Construction and McWhinney, along with banks and airlines, the Auraria Higher Education Center, Denver Arts and Venues and dozens of high-profile nonprofits.

This sort of trip has precedent. Previous mayors, including Michael Hancock, have taken international flights with business leaders and lobbyists in an effort to build ties between Denver and other cities.

Who’s paying for the travel and how much will it cost? 

“Denver International Airport is covering the cost for Mayor Mike Johnston, while city agencies are covering the costs for their respective members of the delegation,” explained Jose Salas, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s office. 

The trip came weeks after the city announced budget cuts across departments to fund the mayor’s new immigrant response. 

City Councilmember Sandoval, who sits on the board of Visit Denver, had her travel paid by that organization. 

Otherwise, businesses, nonprofits and other groups funded their individual representatives. 

Neither the mayor’s office nor the airport could offer a total budget for the trip until it concluded, though a DIA spokesperson said she would share how much it cost the airport upon the delegates’ return. 

Johnston will land back in Denver on Friday afternoon, provide remarks and read a proclamation at the gate.

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