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'Cable Capital' Opens Its Arms

Denver— It's an odd-but-effective pairing: a cable operator with a serious image problem and a city with a serious image problem.

Last week's announced plan to possibly move beleaguered Adelphia Communications Corp.'s top-level executives to this city has community leaders hoping they can win back the "Cable Capital" crown filched by industry consolidation and economic blight.

While the move would involve only 150 jobs and must be approved by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge, such positive news for Denver has been rare these days.

In the past year, the Mile High City has been gut-punched by waves of telecom pink slips — most notably the 1,700 job cuts made by the former AT&T Broadband this fall, just prior to its merger with Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp.

Add to that the Chapter 11 crash landing of UAL Corp., parent of United Airlines — and the worst drought in living memory, blanketing the city with dust instead of snow this winter — and you get a town in need of an image boost.

"It's not like we are moving 80,000 people here, but I think clearly, symbolically, I think it is a big plus, because it really reflects on Denver's heritage, which I think is, has been and I think always will be very important when you look at the evolution of cable telecommunications," said Jim O'Brien, CEO of The Cable Center and a former CEO of defunct MSO Jones Intercable Inc.

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce hopes Adelphia's arrival will restore luster to the city's bedraggled cable and telecom reputation.

"With so many other areas of the community and the high-tech telecom industries that have been struggling of late, this brings a refocus on the talent that we have here, the opportunity to engage that great talent in job opportunities," said Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Joe Blake. "We haven't been able to use that phrase for a long time."

Of course, it doesn't hurt that there is a ready pool of idle cable talent in the metro area.

"We still have a lot of old Jones folks around, and there are MediaOne [Group Inc.] people around, and there's old AT&T Broadband," O'Brien said. While it is clear Adelphia won't be hiring hordes of Mile High City workers, "they can really pick and choose in terms of looking at what their specific needs might be. They have some good talent they can call upon."