Ed Barlow was in town last week to talk about preparing for a 21st-century economy.

Being out of town last week is the only excuse other than being in the hospital that I will accept for not attending Ed Barlow’s talk on “Preparing the Pikes Peak Area for a 21st Century Economy.”

The event was sponsored by the Economic Vitality Group and The Colorado Office of Workforce Development.

Are we on top of our game? Are we planning for a world that will never be? Ignorance and apathy is our biggest competitor. We cannot tax-cut our way to community wealth creation.

These are just some of the points Barlow brought up in a whirlwind three hours of information.

One of Barlow’s slides was a quote from Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric.

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“When the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is in sight.”

This particular statement concerns me as it pertains to our region. We have growth all around us, yet we have people like Doug Bruce in elected positions. His statements against C and D are meant to deceive and mislead voters. What has he ever done for the betterment of our community? What boards is he on? What non-profits does he support? A column on Bruce is for another day. This is about our community – not dysfunctional politicians.

Do you know two of the fastest growing states for business? They are Wisconsin and Minnesota. Guess what, they are not just cold states … they are also highly taxed states.

There was a lot of information presented and my hand still hurts from taking notes so I am going to summarize some of Barlow’s points as they pertain to our community.

Community change success characteristics

  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Constituent needs driven
  • Facilitated by a steering committee
  • High stakeholder involvement and commitment
  • Process map activities

Barlow challenged the group of business and community leaders to “become the best at re-training adults in the nation.” He tied this together with the baby boomer generation readying for retirement, and said that by 2010 technical information will be doubling every 72 hours.

Today technical information is doubling every two weeks.

Are we as a community ready for challenges that do not yet exist? Do we have enough vision to really separate our region from others?

How can we as a region and as a business community start the initiative to become the best re-training area for adults in the United States?

Well, we have Pikes Peak Community College and maybe I should start there. Joe Garcia, I hope you were in attendance, if not I will fill you in. I think we are in a pretty good position to start this project.

I will offer my time to champion any of the causes that we define as priority.

Another good point Barlow brought up is that we need a vice president of human resources for the community. This person or department could define the emerging careers and then make sure we are in a position to capitalize on them.

Does the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs offer a degree in geriatric care management or training to become a cryptanalyst? (OK, I am not exactly sure what a cryptanalyst is but it sounded cool.) These emerging careers are things that I would not even have thought about until hearing Barlow.

The only constant is change. We all have to be good change managers. There is danger and opportunity on the horizon and we need to be prepared for it. We need to be able to see over the horizon and put plans in place for things we never think of currently in our busy lives.

The other thing that was abundantly clear is the need to pass Referenda C and D. Obviously quality of life, skilled professionals and a skilled labor pool are influencers for a company to relocate here.

Without C and D our higher learning institutions will take a big hit, causing a decrease in our skilled labor pool which will directly affect our ability to recruit companies as well as grow existing ones.

Oh, couple more things, Barlow brought up leaders need to think beyond their experience and plan beyond their tenure. Also you may want to take a Chinese lesson. We are in a global world and economy.

Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at lon.matejczyk@csbj.com or 329-5202.