Best Automotive Dealer

Phil Long Dealerships

At Phil Long Dealerships, the journey begins before customers drive away from the lot, even if they don’t know it.

“We try to embrace our corporate philosophy-The Journey,” said Bob Fenton, executive vice president and managing partner. “The first thing is people. It’s not really about cars; it’s about providing a product, a service to customers. From salespeople to managers, every one of them focuses on customer service.”

Phil Long bought one Ford franchise in Colorado Springs in 1945, and employed less than 200 workers. Today, more than 1,250 employees work in 18 dealerships (including Ford, Saturn, Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi, Mercedes, Audi, Suzuki and Chrysler/Jeep) across the state.

“We take a lot of pride in being a Colorado company,” Fenton said. “We work hard at taking good care of our customers.”

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Last year, Phil Long Dealerships sold 35,000 cars, retail.

Fenton said Long worked hard to instill an appreciation for people in his employees. “He said, ‘If you take care of your customers, they’ll take care of you.’ It sounds simple, but it’s true. We try to get that philosophy to become part of everyone’s heart and soul.”

Runners-up: Red Nolan,

Al Serra

Best Residential Real Estate Company

RE/MAX International

Perhaps people notice their balloons.

Based in Denver, RE/MAX International’s nearly 100,000 real estate agents do business in 51 countries; yet, the hot-air balloons embellished with the company logo, a marketing strategy since 1978, are apparently what sticks in potential homeowners’ minds when it’s time to look for a house.

Locally the real estate giant earned the Best Residential Real Estate Company award. “I think that we have a lot of resources that are available to us, and we tap into those resources-both in experience, and the way we do business,” said Ted Ebbink, a broker associate at the Research Parkway office. “We don’t inflate prices; [our prices are] based on sound business practices. The listed houses we have sell more quickly because we have the prices where they should be. We do analysis both locally and nationally to make sure we’re up to date.”

Runners-up: Griffis/Blessing,

Curbow Realty.

Best Private Club

Country Club of Colorado

Located at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain, the Country Club of Colorado provides members with a wealth of benefits and services. The Country Club of Colorado opened in 1973 and its membership has grown to about 420 golf members and 670 recreation members, said Tracey Kalata, membership sales manager.

“Our tennis and golf I would say are probably the highlights here,” Kalata said. “We have one of the best tennis programs probably in the Rocky Mountain region.” The Country Club of Colorado also has its own coed swim team – the Stingrays, and the Spartans Day Camp for children ages 5-12.

Members also enjoy a 20 percent discount on food and beverages at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort as well as a 20 percent discount on lodging at the resort, Kalata said. The Country Club of Colorado only offers lifetime memberships. “Most of the people who have joined know they want to stay for a lifetime,” Kalata said.

Runners Up: Garden of the Gods,

El Paso Club

Best Place to Work

Griffis/Blessing Inc.

They say the proof is in the pudding.

Results are what matter to the management at local real estate services firm Griffis/Blessing, and there is a lot of latitude in how employees are permitted to get them.

“I think my employees feel empowered to make decisions on their own,” said CEO Buck Blessing. “They don’t feel they’ll get beat up for making a bad decision.”

Griffis/Blessing is headquartered in Colorado Springs, with additional offices in Denver and Pueblo. With nearly 3 million square feet of office, retail and industrial space, the company manages approximately 3,900 apartment units.

Griffis/Blessing recently scored Best Place to Work honors, a fact that might have something to do with how employees are valued in this dynamic company.

“I continually interact with my district managers and on-site staff,” said Pat Stanforth, vice president of resident management. “The people who work for Griffis/Blessing are true professionals-that just makes it so much more fun to come to work every day. They all work together for the good of our company and their residents.”

Runners-up: Cheyenne Mountain Resort,

Infinity Systems Engineering.

Best Wireless Phone Service

Verizon Communications Inc.

With nearly 39 million customers and the infamous “Can you hear me now?” TV ads, Verizon Communications Inc. has found a niche in the international telecommunications industry, and has won the hearts and minds of local folks, as well.

Verizon was formed in June 2000 with the merger of Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp. and is based in New York. Consolidated operating revenues increased 3.9 percent in the first quarter of 2004 to $17.1 billion, compared with $16.5 billion in the first quarter of 2003.

“At Verizon Wireless, we’re focused on our growing customer base and ensuring that they have the highest quality products and services,” said Dick Lynch, executive vice president and chief technical officer.

Verizon is the largest provider of local and wireless telecommunications in the United State, with approximately $68 billion in annual revenues.

Runners-up: AT&T,

Nextel

Best Place to be CEO

Walt Disney World

A few people wouldn’t mind having Al Weiss’ job.

As president of the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Weiss supervises 47 square miles of property-twice the size of Manhattan-and more than 111,000 jobs-including third-party company employees who contract with Disney World-in central Florida. Annually, those jobs generate $2.9 billion in payrolls, and $5.1 billion in spending in Orange, Osceola and Brevard counties (and school districts).

Since it opened in 1971, Walt Disney World has been the quintessential vacation destination for countless families worldwide. The resort claims four theme parks, three water parks, shopping, restaurants, golf, and more than 20 resorts-ranging from rustic campgrounds to furnished vacation homes.

It’s a lot of responsibility. But since Walt Disney World was voted Best Place to be CEO, readers must be certain that Weiss is fairly compensated.

Runners-up: Griffis/Blessing,

Cheyenne Mountain Resort

Best Politician on Business Issues

Mayor Lionel Rivera

Lionel Rivera is a friend to businessmen.

Voted Best Politician on Business Issues, the mayor gives credit to his fulfilled campaign promise to make the Colorado Springs Municipal Airport a bigger economic player.

Rivera said he instructed Aviation Director Mark Earle, who last year replaced Gary Green after Green’s retirement, to make the airport one of the economic hubs of Colorado Springs.

“I think I can attribute it to the fact that [the city council] made economic development in Colorado Springs one of our top priorities,” Rivera said. “We are focusing on improving and expanding our airport, to set the framework for job creation. We on the city council don’t create jobs; we just provide the right environment for businessmen and women to create jobs.”

In his seven and a half years on the city council, Rivera said his primary focus has been spurring the economic growth in the community.

“That hasn’t been the case in the past. The city council is partners [Greater Colorado Springs] Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corp. to recruit businesses here.”

Runner-up: Jerry Heimlicher

Best Mutual Fund

American Funds

American Funds is one of the nation’s oldest mutual fund families, serving investors since 1931.

With more than $450 billion in investments and more than 25 million shareholder ac
counts, the patriotically named American Funds is the third-largest mutual fund firm in the United States.

The company’s funds are sold through financial advisers, which aid the investor in analyzing risks and potential rewards; allocating resources according to his or her unique financial situation; and thoroughly evaluating the investor’s long-term perspective and financial goals.

So-called “investment professionals” can also provide sage advice during market slumps, political turmoil, currency oscillations and personal times of stress.

American Funds holds more than $100 billion in non-American assets, and is part of The Capital Group Companies, one of the world’s largest investment management organizations.

Runner-up: Fidelity

Best Local Internet

Service Provider

Adelphia Communications

Adelphia Communications Corp. is the fifth-largest cable TV company in the country. Adelphia serves customers in 30 states and Puerto Rico, and offers analog and digital video services, high-speed Internet access and other advanced services over its broadband networks.

Adelphia was voted Best Local Internet Service Provider, and Director of Law Scott Seab said it’s “because we are.”

“We have the most consistent, high-speed and high-quality Internet access in town. We are pleased so many of our customers would vote us No. 1 and help spread the word.”

Having invested about $80 million in the last four of five years, upgrading cable and broadband service capabilities in the Colorado Springs system, it’s now “the most advanced system in the Western region”-which includes nine states.

With 120,000 households in the Springs using Adelphia cable, and about half of those subscribers using Internet services as well, Adelphia holds a very large share. In all, Adelphia provides service to more than 5.3 million customers in 30 states. Primary service areas are Colorado Springs, south Florida, western New York and the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The company has 14,000 employees, 66 in Colorado Springs.

Runners-up: Qwest,

Xpedius

Best Personal Investment Company

Huntley, Thatcher & Ellsworth Ltd.

The predecessor to Huntley, Thatcher & Ellsworth Ltd., Cornerstone Capital Management, opened for business in 1997. The personal asset management firm changed its name in 2002.

Owned by Jason Huntley and Gregory Thatcher, there are several other partners who are not involved in the day-to-day operations, which involve providing advisory and management services for affluent individuals, families and institutional clients.

“Our purpose is really to try to enhance the lives of our clients over a long period of time,” Thatcher said. “We provide strategic planning for an overall wealth strategy. We do not worry about getting [a specific] rate of return. We try to measure what we do for people.”

Thatcher said he had no clue that his company was in the running for Best Personal Investment Company. He conjectures it might have something to do with being a locally-owned and -operated company. “We’re very grateful for Colorado Springs, our clients and our community,” said the Springs native.

Runners-up: Nexus Financial,

AG Edwards

Best Up and Coming Business Leader Under 40

B.J. Hybl

Thoroughly unassuming and charming is B.J. Hybl, vice president of development for Griffis/Blessing, a local real estate services firm.

Hybl separates himself from the pack by his community involvement. He is on several business and community boards-he has to call up his resume to remember-the Pikes Peak Hospice Foundation, the Air Force Academy Foundation, the Colorado College Business and Community Alliance, and the newly founded National Homeland Defense Foundation.

Hybl, at 35, was voted Best Up and Coming Business Leader Under 40-and when asked why, he said, “That is something I don’t know. But I am very honored that someone would take the time to nominate me. I appreciate it immensely.

“It could have been that I’ve met a lot of people.” Some of those contacts were made as part of the Leadership Pikes Peak program, and working with people in various industries, nonprofit, government, other business. “Working in real estate, we seem to talk to the same people-bankers, lenders, surveyors…those types of things help grow the network.”

He has worked for five years at Griffis/Blessing, before which he was vice president of the Garden City (Kan.) Agricultural Land Co., before which he was earning his MBA in the Air Force.

An Army brat, Hybl was born in Asmara, Ethiopia, and is the son of El Pomar CEO, Bill Hybl. The younger Hybl has been married since 1997 to Kristel, and has a 5-year-old son, Jack, and a 2-year-old daughter, Emma.

Runner up: Tanya Dye

Best Real Estate Management Company

Griffis/Blessing

Griffis/Blessing, started in 1985 by then-Colorado College senior Buck Blessing and a partner, has earned the honor of Best Real Estate Management Company.

“There’s probably a couple reasons,” said Vice President of Development B.J. Hybl. “All the staff tries to provide a higher level of service. The staff has a number of certifications; they are very professional in that arena.”

Headquartered in Colorado Springs, with additional offices in Denver and Pueblo, Griffis/Blessing has approximately 3,900 apartment units under management.

Blessing said he hires the right people, and gives them latitude to do their job. One of those “right people” is Pat Stanforth, vice president of residential management, who is responsible for directing the management and leasing of the firm’s residential real estate portfolio. “This industry is very stressful, especially in light of our economic downturn; therefore, I am always trying to find ways to ease the load for our onsite personnel.”

Runner up: Hoff & Leigh

Best Long Distance Service

Qwest Communications

For long-distance service, Springs residents prefer Qwest Communications.

With 3.5 million customers using long-distance service in 14 western and midwestern states, and 25 million customers altogether, Qwest employs nearly 50,000 people, including 13,200 in Colorado.

The communications giant is investing in Colorado infrastructure. Since 1998, Qwest has invested $3.5 billion to build and upgrade a communications network in the state, according to a company news release.

Qwest offers long-distance service in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

According to the company Web site, the Qwest Foundation has contributed more than $22 million to charitable and community organizations in Colorado since 1998.

A lengthy trial earlier this year amid SEC allegations of accounting misconduct among ex-Qwest executives may have done little to dissuade local support. Pikes Peak Community College student Brian Robinson said, “I’ve used Qwest since I moved here [in 2003], and I’ve had no problems with my phone service.”

Runners-up: AT&T,

Sprint

Best Commercial Real Estate Company

Griffis/Blessing

B.J. Hybl said Griffis/Blessing, a local real estate services company, simply employs the right people-and all have contributed to the firm being voted Best Commercial Real Estate Company.

“In the down market we’ve been experiencing lately, the management side has demonstrated keen insights into the market,” Hybl said. “They have experience, local knowledge, dedication and provide quality service.”

Griffis/Blessing is headquartered in Colorado Springs and has almost 3 million square feet of office, retail, and industrial space. The firm has additional offices in Denver and Pueblo.

For Griffis/Blessing’s commercial interests, Hybl is a self-described “utility player” for the company. On the development side, Hybl works in financial management and business planning for real estate assets currently held by Griffis/Blessing; on the acquisition side, he does market research and feasibility analysis-“and everything else in between.”

Runners up: Fountain Colony,

the Olive Group

Best Place to Park Your Money

W
ells Fargo

Real Estate

Founded on March 18, 1852 in New York City by Henry Wells and William Fargo, Wells Fargo is a diversified financial services company that provides banking, insurance, investments, mortgage and consumer finance in more than 5,900 stores internationally.

Headquartered in San Francisco (the first Wells Fargo banks opened July 13, 1852, in San Francisco and Sacramento), the company has $397 billion in assets, 23 million customers and 143,000 employees-among the Top 40 of the nation’s largest private employers-and is the only AAA-rated bank in the United States.Colorado has 129 of Wells Fargo’s banking stores, and 14 financial stores.

Famous for its colorful pioneer history, Wells, Fargo & Co. ran stage lines from 1866-69 from Nebraska to California, and from Utah into Montana and Idaho. Many Wells Fargo wagon drivers also delivered in small towns and big cities until 1918.

“We survey our customers regularly,” said Group Executive Vice President Mark Oman. “They give us high marks for service quality and they tell us they recognize and appreciate the value of the service we provide them. The most significant way they do this is by giving us their business.”

Rich Murphy with AG Edwards & Sons, 104 S. Cascade Ave., says that although real estate has been considered a good long-term investment in recent years with the downturn of the stock market, he’s not sure it’s the basket to put all one’s eggs in.

“Real estate should be a piece of the pie,” Murphy said. “I think it’s had a bit of a run. Stocks and bonds are down. But it’s such an illiquid investment. Real estate is not something you can dispose of quickly.”

Murphy, vice president of investments, admits to being a bit biased, though he reiterated that real estate definitely should be part of one’s investment allocations.

“Out of the last 25 to 30 years, equities have always performed better than real estate. Now, in the last few years, real estate has done better. But in perspective, that’s a pretty short window.”

No runner up.

Best Business to Support a Local Charity

Griffis/Blessing

Local real estate services firm Griffis/Blessing is committed to the community.

As the company secured the Best Business to Support a Local Charity award, CEO Buck Blessing is pretty sure why.

“I think it probably has something to do with the fact that both myself and the firm are committed to the betterment of the Colorado Springs community,” Blessing continued. “We participate in lots of nonprofit and charitable activities. Not just me, but the people in my company. Our employees donate hundreds of hours a year.”

Perhaps his employees are following his lead.

In addition to running the capital campaign for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Blessing is a director of the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, the Air Force Academy Foundation and the Economic Development Corporation Foundation. He is also a member of the Center for Colorado Policy Studies Board of Directors, the CU-Colorado Springs Real Estate Advisory Board, and the Downtown Stadium Advisory Board.

Vice President of Development B.J. Hybl, too, is on several community and business boards, including the Pikes Peak Hospice Foundation, the Air Force Academy Foundation, the Colorado College Business and Community Alliance, and the newly founded National Homeland Defense Foundation.

Runners up: Cheyenne Mountain Resort,

Classic Homes

Best Small Company with a Promising Future

Griffis/Blessing

Readers agree: the Best Small Company with a Promising Future is Griffis/Blessing.

Rounding out a veritable slew of awards, both CEO Buck Blessing and Vice President of Development B.J. Hybl agree: it’s all about the people.

Hybl gives credit to the CEO. “We did experience dramatic growth, but it’s really been the vision of Buck Blessing, and seeing where he wanted to go.

“Where I work, more on the investment side, Griffis/Blessing has really been able to meet and exceed investors’ expectations continuously. Just by virtue of doing that, you’re going to grow.”

The CEO, who began the company at age 20 as a history major at Colorado College, gives credit to his employees.

“I don’t meddle a lot. I leave them alone. I give them a lot of latitude to do their jobs; I think they feel empowered to make decisions on their own. They don’t feel they’ll get beat up for making a bad decision.

“I absolutely love what I do. I feel like I am one of the most fortunate people around.”

Runner up: Cheyenne Mountain Resort

Best Place for a Business Conference

Cheyenne Mountain Resort

Cheyenne Mountain Resort, which sets the standard for Colorado Springs hotels, has a championship golf course, children’s programs, four swimming pools, indoor and outdoor tennis, a fitness center and a 35-acre lake for sailing and fishing.

And according to readers and Vice President and General Manager Laura Neumann, it’s the Best Place for a Business Conference.

The award is “very well deserved,” said Neumann, who calls the conference ambiance “inspirational.”

“Our setting at the base of Cheyenne Mountain is the ideal environment. A lot of businesses want to step outside the box.”

In addition to 316 guest rooms and suites clustered in eight lodges, the resort boasts 40,000 square feet of meeting space designed specifically for business conferences, and a team of conference professionals “second to none,” Neumann said.

“They are creative, hardworking and loyal. They create relationships with clients that bring them back year after year.”

With balconies that open to the Great Outdoors, an onsite tech team, a myriad of IT and audio/visual equipment, not to mention the “tremendously great food,” it’s no wonder that Cheyenne Mountain Resort earned top honors.

“Our staff just loves to serve, to delight our guests,” Neumann said. “I don’t think there’s any better place to have a meeting.”

Runners up: The Broadmoor,

The Antler’s Adam’s Mark Hotel

Best Local Company Web site

Cheyenne Mountain Resort

Best Local Company Web Site honors go to Cheyenne Mountain Resort, a Benchmark Hospitality property.

“I think it’s a creative Web site. It has strong links that drive traffic to our Web site from a number of sources,” said Laura Neumann, vice president and general manager. “It’s colorful; it showcases the best of what we have to offer. I’m proud of our Web site.”

In addition to the easy-to-navigate pages, the site features a Flash-formatted Virtual Tour that allows visitors to see schematic drawings, images and panoramic photos of the resort’s amenities-from the guest rooms to restaurants to the golf course-and is accompanied by audio narration.

“I don’t know if it’s the best in town, to be quite honest, but I think we have a nice [Web site] that people find friendly and easy to use,” Neumann said. “We recently produced a CD-ROM brochure that has video clips of our employees talking to people. It’s a by-product of the Web site; it’s kind of unique.”

Runner up: Griffis Blessing

Best Community Board to Sit On

Economic Development Corp.

Pikes Peak Lodging Assoc.

In a tie, both the Economic Development Corp. and the Pikes Peak Lodging Association were voted Best Community Board to Sit On.

The EDC was created in the early 1970s to build an economy that would allow local young people to stay in Colorado Springs-and still find good-paying jobs. And although the EDC is still about jobs, now its mission is three-fold: finding jobs for those who have been laid off, trying to diversify the economy and providing jobs for people entering the work force-whether they are graduating from school or moving in from out of town.

“I think it brings immediate value,” said board member Steve Schneider, regional managing director of Acordia, an insurance brokerage firm. “I enjoy the EDC board. I enjoy the people, and I enjoy the direction that it’s going.”

The Pikes Peak Lodging Association, made up of hotel and motel owners and managers, was created in 1940 as the Pikes Peak Motel Association. Beginning with a membership of 13 motels
, the organization has grown to include more than 70 members, which include privately owned bed-and-breakfasts, small motels, chain hotels and five-star hotels.

PPLA works to promote lodging and tourism-related business by working within the political arena to encourage beneficial legislation, active involvement in community affairs, and by sponsoring social events and networking opportunities for members.

No runner up.

Best Casualty Insurance Provider

Acordia of Colorado

Acordia Inc., a Wells Fargo company, provides insurance brokerage, administrative services and a range of financial and consulting services to thousands of clients from 147 local offices across the country.

In Colorado Springs, Acordia employs 66 people, chiefly supplying business insurance, employee benefits, homeowners insurance and auto insurance. In addition, the firm provides quite a bit of consulting in insurance matters. Acordia of Colorado earned the mark of distinction locally as Best Casualty Insurance Provider.

“It’s people. I think we have the strongest insurance talent,” said Steve Schneider, regional managing director. “We stress ongoing training and customer service. It’s very gratifying to see the readers and customers vote for us.”

Headquartered in Chicago, Acordia is the fifth-largest insurance brokerage firm in the world, with 4,500 associates handling more than $6 billion in risk premium. It’s the largest bank-affiliated insurance brokerage firm in the United States.

Runners up: State Farm,

USAA

Best Business Board to Sit On

Sunnyrest Health Care Facility

Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce

Both Sunnyrest Health Care Facility and the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce earned first-place honors for Best Business Board to Sit On.

Sunnyrest is a nonprofit nursing home operated since 1911 with a trust fund; the facility is overseen by a board of directors. One hundred fifteen staff members, including nursing, dietary, maintenance and administrative staff, watch over an average of 90 patients.

Two thousand businesses in the Pikes Peak region are members of the chamber, whose mission is to promote economic growth and prosperity, and the development of business-friendly public policy. The Chamber is 110 years old, and among the 20 percent of accredited chambers of commerce in the nation.

“We’re extremely pleased with this honor, as we believe we have an outstanding board of directors,” said Will Temby, president and CEO of the chamber. “They are representative of a wide array of important and successful businesses and organizations.”

No runner up.

Best Computer Consulting Company

Colorado Information Technologies Inc.

Since 1982, Colorado Information Technologies (CIT)-which incorporated as Colorado Software Solutions-has provided information technology services to the local business community.

When President Bill Blount was told CIT took Best Computer Consulting Company honors, he thought it might have something to do with “the fact that we’ve been around a long time, and we have great technicians, all of them with lots and lots of experience. All our techs have over 20 years of experience-pretty much since the PC hit the scene.”

CIT offers a variety of services to businesses: network support and Internet connectivity among them. “Nowadays, that’s crucial. The fact that we can provide both ends allows us to be a lot more responsive to the client.”

In an industry not known for corporate longevity, CIT stands out as a company that local professionals know to turn to. “We appreciate getting voted in on that; that was really nice.”

Runners-up: Kat Productions,

Navakai

Best Temporary Employee Service

Add Staff Inc.

Since 1984, Add Staff Inc. has been matching job seekers and employers’ career openings in Colorado Springs. The largest locally-owned independent staffing company in the Pikes Peak region specializes in accounting, administrative, professional and technical staffing-in direct hire, career placement, temporary assignments, contract work and temp-to-hire positions.

“We’re very happy and honored,” said Vice President Kelly Shaffer. “We’re locally owned and operated. For 20 years, we’ve been here, doing our best to provide best staffing services to the community. We treat our applicants and clients as well as we can.”

The Add Staff roster features more than 800 companies and organizations served every year-they range from small, emerging companies to Fortune 500 firms.

“Our products are people,” Shaffer said. “They are all different, and this keeps our job interesting. You learn something from everyone you meet and talk to.”

Runners-up: Apprentice,

Office Team

Best Computer Training Company

New Horizons

New Horizons Computer Learning Centers has five locations in Colorado, including one near the Briargate Mall in Colorado Springs.

New Horizons scored the Best Computer Training Company award, and offers a variety of services to small and large businesses and aspiring IT students-including technical courses, training classes and certification packages.

The Colorado Springs office is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays, while the testing center and lab is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

Resources available to students include tuition reimbursement and assistance, certification testing, college credit, VA education benefits, work force retraining and class practice files. Business courses include business writing, time management, diversity and business accounting.

Other locations include Broomfield, near the Interlocken Business Park, Loveland near the Factory Outlet Mall, and two in Denver, in the World Trade Tower Building and just off Interstate 25 and Dry Creek Road.

No runner up.

Best Trucking Company

Nation-Wide Horse Transport

For more than four decades, Nation-Wide Horse Transport has set the standard for equine shipping by use of its headquarters and hub in Colorado Springs-where horses get to rest and are observed before the continuation of their trip.

Winning the Best Trucking Company award may have something to do with the company’s superior horse-transport facilities, and employees are pleased to have been recognized for it.

“I would think it is an honor for anybody to recognize the hard work we put into transporting,” said receptionist Debbie Hartman.

The company’s vans are equipped with full air-ride suspension to provide a smoother ride, and 51-foot horse trailers mean each horse suffers less stress and trip fatigue. Each truck contains a sleeper cab, so that the two-driver teams are well-rested. Drivers also have access to horses, to ensure each has food and water.

An anonymous Arizona resident expressed her pleasure at Nation-Wide Horse Transport’s Web site: “I was very pleased at the condition Tiffin arrived in. He came off the truck calmly and his weight looked much better than I expected. He obviously had very good care on his trip.”

Runners-up: Emery,

2 Men and a Truck

Best Travel Agency

Charlie Brown’s Goodtime Travel

With two locations serving Colorado Springs and Pueblo, Charlie Brown’s Goodtime Travel has been providing vacation packages and travel advice since 1985.

Whether it’s a weeklong expedition in Africa or a Las Vegas casino weekend, travel agents can advise customers about the latest information on any destination-passport information, immunizations, even what to pack.

Winner of the Best Travel Agency award, Charlie Brown’s is open 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, and is a member of the Better Business Bureau of Colorado Springs, American Society of Travel Agents, Travelsavers, Cruise Line International Association, International Association of Golf Tour Operators and the International Airlines Travel Agent Network.

Personal information is kept strictly confidential, even on the Goodtime Travel Web site. Not only is none of a customer’s personal information shared or sold to any third party-including name, address, phone number or travel histo
ry-but e-mail addresses are kept confidential, as well.

Runners-up: Taylor,

Guide Travel Systems Inc.-Carlson Wagonlit Travel

Best Hospital

Penrose-St. Francis Health Services

Founded by the Sisters of St. Francis and the Sisters of Charity, Penrose-St. Francis is a member of Centura Health, a statewide health care system. Three facilities make up Penrose-St. Francis: Penrose Hospital, Penrose Community Hospital and St. Francis Health Center.

Upon winning the Best Hospital award, Marketing Director Julie Armstrong said, “We are so excited.”

In 1890, Penrose Hospital, 2215 N. Cascade Ave., was created originally as a tuberculosis sanatorium, but has grown to become a major health treatment and referral center for cardiac patients, cancer patients, emergency trauma and rehabilitation.

Built in 1975, Penrose Community Hospital, 3205 N. Academy Blvd., concentrates on short-stay and outpatient services, with a maternal focus. A neonatal intensive care unit, a pediatric unit, a breast diagnostic center, a 24-hour emergency department and an after-hours care service for minor injuries are among the hospital’s features.

St. Francis Health Center, 825 E. Pikes Peak Ave., was established in 1887-the first Springs hospital. The center’s impetus now is behavioral services and treatment for psychiatric and chemical dependency problems. Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care are housed there, along with offices for Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs and the Penrose-St. Francis Clinical Pastoral Education Program.

Runner-up: Memorial Hospital

Best Health Care Insurance Provider

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield

Anthem Inc., an Indiana-based company, is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, which has provided health insurance to Americans since the 1930s.

Anthem is the fifth-largest publicly traded health benefits company in the United States, and is the Blue Cross and Blue Shield licensee in Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia (not including Washington, D.C.).

Notably, Anthem recently worked through the Colorado Guidelines Collaborative to develop strategies with physicians, health plans and employers to address smoking, with support from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“Tobacco is the No. 1 preventable cause of death in the United States,” said Dr. Lisa Latts, medical director for Anthem’s West region. “In our tobacco cessation program, we saw an opportunity to spearhead a public-private approach, recognizing that working together, we could have a greater effect than any organization working alone.”

The Blue Preferred PPO of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield is currently the most popular health plan at colohealth.com.

Runners-up: Kaiser Permanente,

United Healthcare

Best Pro-Business Bank

U.S. Bank

U.S. Bancorp, with assets of more than $192 billion, is the sixth largest financial services holding company in the United States. The company operates 2,275 banking offices and 4,472 ATMs in 24 states-and provides to its customers a line of banking, brokerage, insurance, investment, mortgage, trust and payment services and products to consumers, businesses and institutions.

In June, U.S. Bank was awarded an “outstanding” rating by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency-acknowledging the bank’s leadership role in meeting the credit needs of its communities.

“[The rating] recognizes the hard work of our employees, who serve our communities with excellence,” said Mark Smith, president of the U.S. Bank in Denver. “We recognize and thank our community partners for their support in helping us achieve this top rating.”

Earlier this month, 16 pieces of art went on display in downtown Colorado Springs for the U.S. Bank Art on the Streets program-a program intended to stimulate discussion, add visual beauty to the downtown area and expose more people to art.

“Art on the Streets is a free event for everyone in the community to enjoy,” said Lana Yeakel, president of the downtown Colorado Springs U.S. Bank branch.

Runners-up: Vectra,

Wells Fargo

Best Large Company With a Promising Future

Classic Homes

A leading builder in the Pikes Peak region since 1989, Classic Homes was founded as a Colorado Springs company-and receives recognition often for its commitment to the area, including two MAME Grand Awards, the Better Business Bureau Outstanding Customer Service Award, and as a finalist for the National Association of Homebuilders National Quality Award.

Not to mention scoring Best Large Company with a Promising Future honors.

With more than 140 employees and upward of $130 million in gross revenue annually, Classic Homes has come a long way from its humble beginnings. In 1990, the firm closed 28 homes and generated just $3 million in gross revenue.

CEO Jeff Smith gives partial credit for the developer’s success to Biggs, Kofford & Co., a local accounting firm. “The direct consultation from Biggs, Kofford & Co. has allowed us to feel confident in the major decisions we had to make in order to achieve that growth.”

No runner up

Best Architectural Firm

Yergensen, Obering & Whittaker

Since the early 1970s, Yergensen, Obering & Whittaker, a local architectural firm, has been building a track record of site analysis, land planning and space planning to become one of the most sought-after firms in the Springs.

“Our highly capable and professional staff and the strength of their many years of experience allow us to meet the needs of individual clients,” said partner Larry Whittaker. “This experience has taught us that providing a client-oriented program is the key to a successful business.”

After being voted Best Architectural Firm, Whittaker said, “We are honored, of course, but feel it is due, in part, to the quality of clients we have been fortunate enough to be associated with throughout the years.”

Whittaker said the trio’s favorite project may have been the Plaza of the Rockies South Tower. Located in the heart of downtown, the high-rise building features a four-story barrel-vaulted glass atrium, offering contemporary, sophisticated office space, and suites flooded with light.

“We have experience in all areas of the building process and have well-established relationships with local entities,” Whittaker said. “[Yergensen, Obering & Whittaker] has the background to successfully manage high-profile projects.”

Runner-up: NES Inc.

Best Florist

Gentry’s Flowers & Accessories Inc.

Platte Floral Co.

Skyway Creations Unlimited

In a three-way tie, locally-owned flower shops Gentry’s Flowers & Accessories Inc., Platte Floral Co. and Skyway Creations Unlimited took Best Florist honors.

Since 1982, Gentry’s Flowers, 225 E. Pikes Peak Ave., has offered an array of imported tropical flowers and California selections-everything from Oriental lilies to Dendrobium orchids.

The professional staff, with a combined 60 years of experience, makes individual arrangements to suit customers’ needs. The quaint downtown store looks like a European shop from the outside, and a tropical garden on the inside-and also carries custom silk and dried arrangements, as well as eclectic gifts.

Platte Floral, 1417 East Platte Ave., has served the Pikes Peak region for more than 70 years.

The shop boasts an extensive collection-from tropical foliage to blooming plants, including those acclimated to the semi-arid Colorado weather-arranged by creative floral designers, outdoor furniture and green plants from its 4,800-square-foot greenhouse.

Skyway Creations, 1407 S. Eighth St., has been a pioneer of interior landscaping for more than 30 years, and maintains a 6,000-square-foot greenhouse with tropical foliage.

Exotic flower arrangements include seasonal flowers from California, South American roses, tropical Hawaiian flowers and blooming plants native to Colorado. The company also offers a myriad of services, from banquet centerpieces to ballroom decorations.

No runner up

Best Life Insurance Provider

USAA

Membe
r-owned Fortune 500 company USAA, a diversified financial services provider, owns and manages more than $71 billion in assets. Headquartered in San Antonio, the company also has offices throughout the United States and Europe.

Earlier this year, Kristi Matus became president of USAA Life Insurance Co., following the retirement of James Middleton. USAA Life has 5 million clients, and an $11 billion investment portfolio, and is considered by experts to be a “low-load insurer,” because agents are fee-only advisers who usually do not work on commissions or receive compensation from the company.

Founded in 1974, the Mountain States Regional Office employs 1,200 in Colorado Springs, and provides policy and claims services in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming; and policy services in Oregon and Washington.

The life insurance division of USAA received an AAA (extremely strong) rating from Standard & Poor’s, which has been rating the financial strength of insurers since 1971.

Runner up: Northwestern Mutual Life

Best Accounting Firm

Biggs, Kofford & Co.

Since 1982, Biggs, Kofford & Co., a local accounting firm, has been personalizing services for its clients-services that include mergers and acquisitions, litigation support, business strategy and advice, as well as estate and gift planning, among many others.

The firm works for businesses and individuals, and works to instill confidence in all of its clients.

“We’re honored by winning this award,” said Managing Partner Jerry Biggs. Professional integrity and an entrepreneurial spirit-“we’re entrepreneurs, too” says the Web site-work to put this firm at the front of the pack.

One of the firm’s biggest fans is Berwick Electric, a 200-employee company and a leading electrical contractor in the Pikes Peak region.

“Biggs, Kofford & Co. staff have been very helpful,” said Doug Berwick, secretary and treasurer. “Every company hates going through the audit process, but they helped make it painless by being excellent about getting in, getting the information they need, and getting out of the office with minimal interruption of our ongoing operations, and yet very thorough in bringing up issues in various areas that need to be addressed.”

Runners-up: BKD,

Stockman, Kast, Ryan & Co.

Best Law Firm

Attorney Gilbert Weiskopf

Attorney Gilbert Weiskopf, who started his own firm in 1999, has been a name in local law since he moved to Colorado Springs in 1985.

Weiskopf worked for 10 years as a partner with Hecox & Tolley, and then for four years as a partner with Braden, Frindt and Stinar.

“I think it’s market saturation. All my work is transactional based; I don’t do any litigation. In part, I have some very loyal clients, and I think if you strive for a quality product and a timely response, the rest pretty much takes care of itself.”

Upon winning the Best Law Firm honors, Weiskopf was both touched and a bit mystified.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” he said. “I’m not sure that it’s reflective of my lawyering abilities … I’ve been in town a long, long time and I have a strong following. The practice of law is not much different from any other organization. The name of the game is customer service.”

Runners up: Dennis Rupp,

Suesmihl, McDermott, Miller & Cowan

Best Thing to Happen to Southern Colorado Last Year

Troops return

Of all the troops to leave Southern Colorado in 2003, only about 1,000 returned to the area last year said Kim Tisor, chief of media relations at Fort Carson. “They were really just trickling in last year,” she said.

But, despite sporadic returns and occasional redeployments, Colorado Springs Business Journal readers voted the troops’ homecoming the best thing to happen to Southern Colorado in 2003.

Runner up: Same-sex benefits for city employees

Best Thing to Happen to Southern Colorado This Year

Troops return

About 15,000 troops returned to Southern Colorado from the beginning of March through the end of May, said Kim Tisor, chief of media relations at Fort Carson. “The bulk of the soldiers came back this year,” Tisor said. “It’s very heartwarming that people voted this the best thing to happen to Colorado Springs.”

The support from the community is very much appreciated, she said. Tens of thousands of Colorado Springs residents flooded the streets of downtown on June 5 to honor the troops who had returned from overseas. Several businesses on Tejon Street contributed to the parade by putting up banners, American flags and streamers. About 5,000 soldiers participated in the parade, Tisor said, but thousands of others in the United States and abroad were there in spirit.

Runner up: Rain

Best Bar to Entertain Clients

The Ritz

Have a “Ritztini” or a “Mingarita.” The staff at The Ritz in downtown Colorado Springs will be happy to serve up any of their unique drink concoctions. “We have an extensive martini list. There are some standards and some that are really our thing,” said Ross Seville, assistant general manager.

For example, The Ritz features a martini called “Old Blue Eyes” – a Skyy Vodka martini served with three bleu cheese stuffed olives. And they haven’t forgotten about their carb-concious patrons. “The Zero” is a zero-carb martini made with UV Vodka.

And as for food, “The majority of our menu is extremely unique. Our executive chef does things that are amazing,” Seville said. In addition to cooking up seafood bruschetta and half-pound Kahuku shrimp, executive chef Jay Gust takes time to share his epicurean knowledge. “I do meet the wine maker dinners,” Gust said. The Ritz invites wine makers to special dinners, which gives patrons a chance to chat with the people behind the bottles. Gust also teaches food and wine classes and his next class will be held August 3rd.

Runners Up: Cheyenne Mountain Resort,

Jack Quinn’s,

32 Bleu

Best Commercial Printer

Update Printing

Michael Bucher, owner and president of Update Printing, credits his company’s success to its dedication to personal service and low prices. Update Printing has been in town since 1983, and Bucher has been along for the ride for all 21 years.

Update Printing, which is at 2936 Janitell Road, offers free pick up and delivery in El Paso County and serves individual customers and large and small businesses. “There’s so much business here in town, it’s unbelievable,” Bucher said. Although the Update Printing staff, Bucher and company vice president Louis Kowalefski are kept busy in Colorado Springs, they have extended their service into Woodland Park.

And if people and businesses want to change to Update Printing from another printer, Update will pick up all originals or make new originals at no cost to the customer, Bucher said.

Runners Up: Kinko’s,

Documart

Best Telecom Equipment Dealer

Jem Communications

Father and son Roger and Steven Vergo of Jem Communications believe the customer always comes first. “They know they can depend on us. We’ve always carried a large stock of parts and replacement parts and pieces,” said Roger Vergo, who will have been in business for 25 years in September.

Colorado Springs is home to the headquarters of Jem Communications and Steven Vergo’s uncle Ron Vergo works for Jem from his home office in Omaha, Neb. Despite its relatively small size, 10 employees in all, Jem serves customers in Denver, California, Arizona and Indiana. The company provides products from Mitel, Toshiba and March Networks. “The company’s had a lot of big installs,” Steven Vergo said. “Every system we put in is a big deal for us.” System installations by Jem Communications range from one phone to systems that can support 2,000 phones, he said.

For Steven Vergo, the best thing about working in Colorado Springs is working with friendly people. “In a way, Colorado Springs is a big town, but there is still a small-town environment,” he said.

Runners Up: West Tech Communications,

Tricom Communications Services

Best Place to Live in the Area

Briargate

Over 20,000 Colorado Springs residents live in th
e Briargate area in the north end of town, according to the www.briargate.com Web site. Briargate offers a planned community lifestyle and homes by Classic Homes. Home prices start in the $190s.

Briargate boasts inter-linking trails, a number of parks and impressive mountain views. Families can take advantage of the basketball courts, in-line hockey courts and skateboard park in the community. The opening of the new Shops at Briargate center has added several retail stores and restaurants to the ever-expanding north end area.

Runners Up: Broadmoor, Downtown,

The Old Northend

Best Sporting Event to Take a Client

Sky Sox

With 72 home games each season, there are plenty of opportunities to treat clients to a day at Sky Sox Stadium. Gabe Ross, assistant general manager, said the Sky Sox organization focuses its ticket sales on group sales. “It seems to me that in summertime, folks might be more inclined to do social things with clients.”

Ross said a day at Sky Sox Stadium gives business a chance to entertain many clients at once, in an environment that is conducive to conversation. Even while a game is in full swing, businesspeople can chat with clients because of the usually slow-paced nature of baseball. “The nature of baseball, it’s a more social event,” Ross said.

There is still time to check out a game with clients this summer as the final home game of the season is September 6. The Sky Sox are scheduled to play the Iowa Cubs this weekend.

Runners Up: Colorado College Hockey,

U.S. Air Force Academy Football

Best Clothier for Women

Dillard’s

Women can find everything from stilettos to swimwear at Dillard’s in Colorado Springs. Dillard’s features active wear by Adidas and lingerie by Felina. The Lauren clothing line by designer Ralph Lauren has a strong presence in the store.

Dillard’s carries shoes by Antonio Melani and Gianni Bini, handbags from Dooney and Bourke, and women’s watches by Fossil, Anne Klein and Kenneth Cole.

Sale stickers often adorn price tags at Dillard’s. “We don’t bring it in at a higher price and then put it on sale,” said Jack Lemmons, store manager at the Citadel Mall. Lemmons wants customers to know that his company offers both quality and value.

Runners Up: The Talbots,

JC Penney

Best Jeweler

Johannes Hunter

Since 1988, Johannes Hunter Jewelers has been a fixture in downtown Colorado Springs. Linda Hunter, a founding member of the company, has been with Johannes Hunter since its 1980 start in Idaho.

“We make up a lot of one-of-a-kind items,” Hunter said. “We also carry the classics and we try to put an updated twist on them.” There are two certified gemologists on site, Linda Hunter being one of them, and one gemologist in training.

The store prides itself on both quality merchandise and top-notch customer service. “We’re very relationship oriented. Everyone talks about service and we really try to give it and not just talk it,” Hunter said. “We’ve worked hard to be the integrity store.”

Johannes Hunter Jewelers is located at 124 N. Tejon Street, in the hub of downtown. But have no fear – parking is available behind the store.

Runner up: Graff Diamonds and Jewelers

Zales Jewelers

Best Business Dinner

Cheyenne Mountain Resort

Paul Konecny and the staff at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort know a thing or two about dinner as well. Dinner is served in a buffet style similar to the lunch setup. The specialty buffet on Friday features seafood selections and Saturday night showcases Italian favorites and prime rib.

“The daily dinner cycle is always going to include a tossed garden green salad, three dressings and four condiments,” Konecny said. “And then on top of that, we’re going to have our specialty salads.” Specialty salad choices often include a roasted Portobello mushroom and romaine lettuce salad, pasta primavera salads and jicama salads.

On July 15 the Cheyenne Mountain Resort won best overall in the Taste of Colorado Springs event at the Air Force Academy’s Blue and Silver Club, Konecny said. “So we’re proud of that, too,” Konecny said.

Runners Up: The Famous,

Blue Star,

Mackenzie’s Chophouse

Best After Work Bar

Old Chicago

Southside Johnny’s

After work is the perfect time to sit down and sample a beer from China, Italy, Canada or wherever at Old Chicago. “We have a gigantic selection of beer,” manager Mike Carlson said. When people come in from the hustle and bustle of downtown, they’ll find a great place to unwind, he said. “We offer a fun, casual environment.”

Old Chicago is known for its World Beer Tour, which offers beer lovers a chance to try 110 different brews. Once the tour is complete and all 110 have been sampled, the successful “traveler” receives a World Beer Tour sweatshirt and his or her name is added to the prestigious “Hall of Foam.” Old Chicago also serves wine and cocktails.

And there is no need to rush the unwinding process at Old Chicago. The kitchen doesn’t close until 1 a.m. – so those Sicilian Pepperoni Rolls and chicken wings aren’t going anywhere. “We make everything from scratch and nothing is prepackaged,” Carlson said.

Sports fans, motorcycle enthusiasts and everyone in-between can shake off the hassles of a long workday at Southside Johnny’s. Sandee Fox, an assistant manager, said the casual, laid-back atmosphere has a lot to do with the bar’s popularity. And everyone is welcome to come in and take it easy.

“We have a huge biker crowd, but it’s a pretty mellow biker crowd,” Fox said. And whenever a big game is on, patrons can sit back and watch sporting events on the bar’s large projection screen. “It takes up our whole back wall,” Fox said.

Happy hour goes from 4 to 7 p.m., seven days a week. Wines, wells and drafts are $1 off during Southside Johnny’s happy hour. As for all other drinks – “We can just about do anything,” Fox said. She compared the taste of Southside Johnny’s blue martini to Sweet Tarts. There is a parking lot next to the bar, so any trip for a blue martini will be free of any downtown parking complications.

Runner Up: The Ritz

Best Exercise Facility

24 Hour Fitness

24 Hour Fitness facilities offer much more than treadmills and free weights. The Southgate location features a pool, kid’s room, cycling room and more than 100 pieces of cardio equipment, said Cory Hennessey, operations manager at the Southgate center.

“We have more than enough to cater to anyone,” Hennessey said. “I think we have one of the larger facilities in town.” Hennessey estimates that the Southgate 24 Hour Fitness center measures about 45,000 square feet. Fitness buffs who frequent the Austin Bluffs and Academy location may get a tan and see on-site chiropractors and massage therapists, Hennessey said.

Darci Cruickshank, 24 Hour Fitness marketing coordinator in Denver, said customers appreciate the convenience of a 24-hour facility. Members may pay as they go, month to month, and there are no penalties for canceling a membership.

And with more than 300 facilities nationwide, it’s easy for the traveling businessperson to stick to a workout plan, Cruickshank said. All-club memberships are available and entitle all-club members to the use of any 24 Hour Fitness center in the country, Cruickshank said.

Runners Up: YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region,

World Gym

Best Place to Buy Wine

Cheers Liquor Mart

Imagine 6,000 to 8,000 bottles of wine. Now picture them all in one place. The Cheers Liquor Mart on North Circle Drive carries wines from South Africa, Chile and all over the world. “We try to offer things other stores can’t,” said Jack Backman, one of the owners. “We’re such a larger store than anyone else.” Backman said his store encompasses about 36,000 square feet.

“Our wine business is increasing more and more as wine becomes more popular,” Backman said. Cheers Liquor Mart holds wine tasting dinners about once a month, he said, and they’re usually held at area restaurants.

Backman believes good customer service and a knowledgeable staff help make Cheers Liquor Mart the best in the Springs. “Taking care of the cust
omer is most important and I think my employees have that attitude too.”

Runners Up: Coaltrain Wine and Liquor,

Colorado Liquor Outlet,

Vintage’s Wine and Spirits

Best Coffee for Commute

Starbucks

Starbucks has certainly come a long way since its early days in Seattle. The first store opened in 1971, and after 33 years, Starbucks has grown to include 7,569 stores worldwide. There are 24 Starbucks locations within a 10-mile radius of downtown Colorado Springs.

Starbucks offers more than just the usual cup of Joe. A drink order may be as simple as “one grande house blend” or as complex as “one tall soy chai latte.” There are a number of lower-fat and lower-calorie choices included among the rich, creamy blended crème drinks. And summer is a great time to stop in and try a simple iced coffee or a more adventurous iced White Chocolate Mocha.

Starbucks sells mild coffees such as the Conservation Colombia and bolder varieties such as the Aged Sumatra and Ethiopia Harrar.

Runners up: Pikes Perk,

Black Bear

Best Video Production Company

Paradise Productions

Paradise Productions specializes in interactive DVD presentations for luxury resorts, conference centers and the cruise industry. Steven Bailey, vice president and director of sales at Paradise, said his company is full of sales-minded storytellers.

“Our tag is ‘Welcome to the future of destination marketing – welcome to Paradise,'” Bailey said. Paradise Productions was launched in the spring of 2002. From the beginning, Bailey wanted very little to do with large, intrusive video cameras. Bailey and company use mini-DVD cameras similar, he said, to those used by ESPN and MTV. “We were just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up to DVD,” Bailey said.

Videos by Paradise Productions are filmed documentary-style and professional talent is rarely used, Bailey said.

He believes the success of his company in part comes from the lasting impressions created by optical media. “It’s got that whole audio/visual stimulation thing going on,” Bailey said. “It’s just a fun industry to be in.”

Runner Up: IMS Productions

Best Place to Purchase Office Supplies

Office Depot

Office Depot carries everything from paper clips to heavy-duty document shredders. “We pride ourselves in being the No.1 supplier of office supplies,” said Ray Ballard, assistant manager at the North Academy store. Customers may either stop by an Office Depot or place orders online by visiting the company’s easy-to-use Web site.

And while Office Depot sells supplies as simple as staplers and scissors, the company also offers a vast selection of high-tech products. “Our biggest area that we’ve seen the biggest spurt in is our technology area,” Ballard said. Office Depot sells PDAs, scanners, internet watches and a wealth of other products for the technology-savvy businessperson.

Even in this age of wireless communication, ink and toner supplies still fly off store shelves, Ballard said.

There are three Office Depot stores in Colorado Springs, and a fourth is set to open in the Southgate area at the end of August or beginning of September, Ballard said.

Runners up: Office Max,

Staples

Best Place to Purchase Office Furniture

Office Depot

Every good office needs comfortable chairs and sturdy desks. Office Depot carries furniture by major brands such as O’Sullivan and Sauder. Businesspeople with an eye for interior design may also take a look at furniture by designer Christopher Lowell.

Ray Ballard, assistant manager at the North Academy store, estimates that 33 percent to 35 percent of Office Depot’s day-to-day business is from furniture sales. The company offers free delivery for all purchases of more than $50 and next-day delivery on orders placed before 3 p.m.

And customers need not fear high-pressured sales tactics from Office Depot employees, Ballard said. “We have something called ‘win the customer’s heart,'” Ballard said. If a customer writes in or calls an Office Depot to commend an employee, that employee is recognized in front of coworkers for his or her dedication to customer service.

“I think our customer service is what sets us apart,” Ballard said. “We teach it from day one to our employees.”

Runners Up: Office Max,

Office Furniture Express

Best Airline

United

United Airlines’ Mileage Plus program has been around for a while, but the company has gone a step further to create the new Ted Club. The Ted Club is what United calls a destination club and it is a part of the Mileage Plus program.

The Ted Club does not include a first class section, but it does have an Economy Plus section that offers more coveted legroom. Snacks are on sale on flights over 2.5 hours and passengers may watch TV on the Ted Club’s Tedevision system on flights over an hour and a half.

United’s airplanes are undergoing a makeover this year with the introduction of a new livery. The new livery will feature a dark blue underside, a bright white top and new bold lettering on all planes. According to www.ual.com, United expects that about 72 planes will be repainted by the end of 2004.

Runners Up: American,

Delta

Best Non-profit Organization

Goodwill Industries

The staff at Goodwill Industries has created a number of programs to assist the elderly and developmentally disabled citizens of Colorado Springs. Goodwill Industries offers home health care services, an adult day service called Life at the Bluffs, a welfare to work program and a family resource alliance that works to preserve families.

A staffing agency also is available and helped about 4,300 people find employment in 2003, said Laura Marth, public relations specialist for organization. Goodwill Industries’ career development center provides information on interviewing skills, resume building and guidance about how to locate employment opportunities.

Twice each year, Goodwill Industries teams up with the Colorado Federation of Republican Women and the El Paso County Department of Human Services to put on the Women Helping Women workshop, Marth said. Business attire is available free of charge and hairstylists are on site to assist with makeovers.

Goodwill Industries provides computer access at a center on Spruce Street and there is a resource room at the corner of Murray and Fountain Blvd.

Runners Up: CASA,

Sunnyrest Health Care Facility

Best Public Golf Course

Patty Jewett

Take a trip back in time and visit the historic Patty Jewett golf course in Colorado Springs. The course has been city-owned since 1919 and everyone from doctors, lawyers and working class people are welcome to tee off. Golf manager Dal Lockwood said there is a pretty diverse mix of golfers who come to Patty Jewett every day.

The Patty Jewett golf course offers plenty of shade and a lush atmosphere. The course is open seven days