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DENVER - It hasn't been built yet. In fact, the city is still working on picking a site, but Eric Duran knows when the West Denver library is constructed, it will make a big difference for kids in his old neighborhood.

"Poor kids hopefully in this neighborhood will have access to computers and Internet. This may be the only place they can meet," Duran said while standing blocks from the West Denver home where he was raised.

While it may seem like a contradiction, he believes in this age when computers have become the primary tool for finding information, libraries are playing a greater role in bridging the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots."

"Paying for a computer or Wi-Fi could be beyond some people's reach. This maybe the only place they have access," Duran said.

Back in '90s Duran led the effort to build three new libraries, including one in West Denver. The biggest hurdle was finding funding for the projects, something he accomplished by getting the libraries in the Better Denver Bond, passed by voters in November 2007.

"Getting it funded was critical. I have to credit him with his tenacity for getting it in the bond," former Denver City Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez said.

He originally hoped to reopen the Dickenson library at 15th Avenue and Hooker Street, which he walked by daily on his way to Lake Junior High School. It had closed before he was able to use it.

"I wrote a grant to the Colorado Historical Society to look at the restoration and preservation of this library and hoped at the time that we would one day reopen it," Duran said.

The city, however, was unable to negotiate a price for the building, which now houses condos. Today, the city is looking at three possible locations for a brand new library, providing a big opportunity for the community.

"It is going to be something that's different. It's going to be something that is wired for Internet. It's going to be 28,000 square feet. Much larger than this old facility," Duran said.

Duran feels just as passionately about the importance of schools in his old neighborhood and across the state.

"The schools or the libraries or the civic institutions may be the only places where they can have those opportunities to learn and have those skill sets," Duran said.

As a public finance investment banker with DA Davidson, Duran has built a career on providing the funding for government projects, including the buildings where kids learn.

"It's fortunate to be in this sort of line of business. We get to do good things in the community as well as do well in the business community," Duran said.

Investing in a school can be pretty risky, since the building usually can't be used for other businesses.

"When you're financing a charter school in a lot of ways you're taking a risk on the community that's involved in starting that charter school and that they'll be around for the next 30 years and be able to pay for their facility and building," Duran explained.

Finally, Duran also finds time to volunteer on the board of Denver Health Medical Center. As a member of the board's finance committee, he works to insure there is enough money to care for the many uninsured patients that come to the hospital after being refused care elsewhere.

"Eric is not doing this to gain anything for himself personally," Rodriguez said. "That's what sets him apart from other leaders. He's not trying to build a resume or win an office or anything like that. His motivation is genuine concern and love for his community."

Please join 9NEWS, TIAA CREF and the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation in congratulating Eric Duran, the 2010 9NEWS Leader of the Year.

For more on previous 9NEWS Leader of the Year award recipients, go to http://www.9news.com/life/community/leaderoty.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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