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The midnight massacre at a mall in Aurora, Colorado, is the latest blow to the state’s third- largest city, which has battled throughout its 121-year history to find an identity in a region dominated by nearby Denver. City officials thought they notched wins last year with the announcement of an $824 million Gaylord Entertainment Co. hotel and convention center near Denver International Airport and a $300-million General Electric Co. solar plant – both later put on hold. Well-publicized killings, including two in a shooting outside a church, preceded the July 20 attack in which 12 died and 58 were wounded at the Century 16 movie theater.

Aurora will need to market itself aggressively to persuade businesses and residents that it isn’t defined by violence, said Bob McGowan, a professor of management at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business. “It’s going to be a setback for Aurora, particularly if they’re trying to attract new folks or new businesses,” he said. “Any rational person would say, ‘Well, I just heard what happened, and is that a place I want to move to?’”