Break out the steaks and beer. It's a backyard investing barbecue, and we're getting a Rocky Mountain high!

There are many good reasons for researching investment opportunities in a certain geographic area. Today, it's the Mile-High City, where people bleed Bronco orange and blue, with easy access to ski resorts and mountainside gambling enclaves.

If you happen to live in Cherry Creek or Highlands Ranch, you already have a few advantages when it comes to evaluating the local market, such as access to local news sources and the word on the street, and a high probability of being a customer or employee of these companies. And if you're not a local resident, you might still want to know whether the weather matches the business climate -- a hot area could be chock-full of undiscovered treasures on their way to greatness.

Without further ado, here are the largest companies headquartered in the Queen City of the Plains:


Market Cap (billions)

CAPS Rating

Bull Ratio

EchoStar Communications (NASDAQ:DISH)




Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM)




First Data (NYSE:FDC)




Western Union (NYSE:WU)




Data taken from Motley Fool CAPS as of 3/8/2007.

The air is thin up here
The biggest isn't always the best. EchoStar is embroiled in a decades-long love/hate relationship with rival DirecTV, and a multiyear series of appeals on a TiVo patent infringement lawsuit that appears headed for an ultimate EchoStar defeat. All-star CAPS player scofflaw1 has a good handle on the media industry, so let's turn there for an explanation of the lone-star rating:

"As telco and cable move to IP based infrastructures that can support subtantial (sic) high-def channels, high speed internet, video on demand, VOIP services and internet gaming the inherent flaw in the satellite architecture will be exposed and revealed in higher customer churn rates. This is a terrific long term secular short call."

Can a gold mine operator be a gold mine for investors? StatsGeek is another top stock picker who thinks it might: "Gold and copper heading up but Newmont Mining going nowhere and quite cheap. I simply can't bring myself to buy the pure explorers that have no revenue. This is a much safer way to play my belief that gold will see $1,000 within 2 years."

That brings us to a Motley Fool Inside Value twosome: First Data and Western Union. Credit card processor First Data has plenty of friends, including dymaxian: "Beaten down champion. These guys aren't going to be down forever, and with a P/E of 12.77 this is a great entry point. Seems the spin-off of Western Union makes people think First Data isn't as worthwile (sic) anymore... we'll see."

Western Union and First Data used to be a single entity until very recently, but both companies remain Inside Value selections. Bracggg doesn't like the morality of what Western Union does, but he's plenty appreciative of its earnings power: "Makes a ton of money by literally abusing poor immigrants who are trying to send a pittance home to their families, charging commissions such as $50 for a wire of $1,000 then taking a second bite with the exchange rate. Dogs, for sure, but a fantastic business model as there's no-one else that even comes close to the number of outlets they have."

Beyond the lofty heights
Denver is a fertile breeding ground for startups, as evidenced by the fact that 40 out of the 104 companies I found went public in the last 10 years. The newcomers span the market from oil exploration specialists and telecommunications players to media producers and restaurant chains.

Tourism, built around an exceptional crop of ski resorts such as Hidden Gems pick Vail Resorts, has become the largest industry in town, which in turn leads to a strong service industry and great transportation infrastructure. Those are vital ingredients in any great business district. Denverites are highly educated and cosmopolitan, with 60% of the population having relocated from other parts of the country.

So it's no surprise to find 12 five-star CAPS stocks and 7 Foolish newsletter picks in the rarefied air. Out in the suburbs, you'll find trendy shoemaker Crocs (NASDAQ:CROX), while telecom giant Qwest Communications (NYSE:Q) keeps a fancy office right in the Lodo business district. There's something for every taste here, and few states can match the speedy growth of Colorado's population. And it's all for good reason.

Do you agree? Disagree? Feel free to weigh in on the Wash Park market -- or on any stocks at all, really -- by joining Motley Fool CAPS and blasting away with your ratings and commentary pitches. And if Bronco football isn't your cup of cold-filtered beer, maybe we'll come round where you live the next time.

Further Foolishness:

First Data and Western Union are Motley Fool Inside Value stocks, and Vail Resorts is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. TiVo is a Stock Advisor selection. Read all about it with a free 30-day trial or three.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here, and is deathly afraid of downhill skiing. His esteemed Foolish colleague Tim Beyers plies his trade in Denver, too. Thanks for the local flavor, Tim! You can check out Anders' holdings if you like. Foolish disclosure is always so hot that it's cool.