There is a road called Denver Street in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. The street, which is home to the US Embassy, was named to commemorate the two-decade long cooperation between Mongolia and Colorado.
The state of Colorado, and Denver in particular, has offered wonderful educational opportunities for Mongolian young political entrepreneurs and mining engineers since 1989. The Colorado School of Mines has been a major destination for Mongolian students, as the mining industry is one of the main drivers of Mongolia’s economy. Now Colorado is home to the largest Mongolian community in the US. With over 2500 people, Mongolians have numerous community activities and even a Mongolian language school.
The Colorado-Mongolia Project, the brainchild of Honorary Consul James Wagenlander, has been critical in fostering the relationship. The project was intended to enrich bilateral relations between Mongolia and Colorado, as well as provide support for the Mongolian community to become a part of the already multi-ethnic society of Denver. As a result, the Mongolian Community Association of Colorado (MCAC) was established, continuing the efforts to bringing Denver and Ulaanbaatar even closer. The sister city partnership of Denver and Ulaanbaatar was formalized in 2001, facilitating high-level exchanges between mayors, business communities, and annual exchanges between three Denver high schools and three schools in Mongolia.
Having similar geographic, demographic, and economic features, Colorado and Mongolia are now forging strong business connections. For instance, the official distributor of Caterpillar heavy equipment in Mongolia is Wagner Asia, a subsidiary of the Colorado-based Wagner Equipment, Inc. The company has six locations across Mongolia, five of which are at the heart of Mongolian new mining developments.
The multi-faceted Colorado-Mongolia relationship dates back to a time of economic and political hardship as Mongolia emerged from Soviet dominance in the early 1990s. Those early ties have grown into strong bilateral cooperation and friendship between the two. As Mongolia shares its unique culture and traditions of Inner Asia, as well as new business opportunities for Coloradans, Denver opens a door for Mongolians to the United States.
Mendee Jargalsaikhan is a Visiting Fellow at the East-West Center in Washington and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia.