Kelly Brough leaving the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce after 12 years

After leading the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce for a dozen years, Kelly Brough will step down on Sept. 1, the business group announced Wednesday.

Brough was chief of staff under then Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper when she left in 2009 to become the first woman CEO and president in the now 153-year-old group’s history.

One of her early assignments at the chamber was helping recruit companies and jobs to the region in the aftermath of the Great Recession, which had pushed the state’s unemployment rate to 9.4% by the fall of 2010. By 2017, the region was dealing with another problem, a shortage of qualified workers and an unemployment rate solidly below 3%.

And then pandemic hit in March 2020, forcing widespread closures that sent the Colorado unemployment rate briefly spiraling to 11.6%, a dislocation that hit lower-wage service workers, women and communities of color hardest.

“What this job showed me, again and again, is that we are not only stronger together; we are smarter together,” Brough said in a statement. “It’s time for somebody who can see challenges and opportunities with fresh eyes to lead the work. I know that with your support and commitment, we will only continue to accomplish great things together.”

Board chairman Trey Rogers said Brough’s influence will be felt for years to come at the chamber, which saw both membership and revenues grow under her watch. The group counts 3,000 business members with 400,000 employees.

She threw the chamber’s support behind open primary elections for unaffiliated voters in Colorado, creating a more open electoral process. She also pushed for the development of water plans, helping win voter approval for a dedicated funding source. Brough worked with the energy industry to strengthen environmental protections while also acknowledging the industry’s importance in the larger economy.

Throughout her tenure, the chamber was actively involved in trying to secure more funding for roads, bridges and transit, something the Colorado Legislature may finally tackle in a meaningful way this session.

More recently, Brough established Prosper CO to address, racial, gender and income disparities within the Colorado economy, and to support small businesses and boost homeownership.

Brough, 57, said she is not retiring and will continue to focus on the issues of education and housing going forward. The chamber’s board said it will begin a search for her replacement immediately.

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