Ian Askill, the CEO of Aspire Biotech, gave a talk recently at a Peak Venture Group breakfast about biotechnology. One of the questions he asked was, “Does it have life in the Springs?”

There are 21 or so biotech companies in the area. Askill sent them a survey. The observations he compiled:

  1. We need a biotech incubator.
  2. We need more action and less talk.
  3. We need a couple of major biotech companies and world-class university research.
  4. Business support groups need to stop competing.
  5. We need a research hospital.
  6. There aren’t enough qualified workers.
  7. The cost of air travel is too high.
  8. We need real incentives.
  9. There is no critical mass of biotech companies.

So, why are they here? Askill said the answer in most cases was that the founder of the company was here and didn’t want to move.

But I want to concentrate on No. 8. I think we need a formalized tax or some type of revenue stream that can be used for incentives.

Maybe a one-tenth of a cent sales tax.

If the 1-cent Rural Transportation Authority tax is generating $60 million to $70 million, a one-tenth of a cent economic development tax would equate to $6 million or $7 million. Will Temby, the president and CEO of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, put it this way: “We need to spend a little to save a lot later.”

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I figure $6 million could go a long way toward keeping businesses here or enticing others to move here.

It could also free up the Economic Development Corp.’s fundraising time, allowing it to go hunting for businesses.

“It all starts with gainful employment,” Temby said.

I put in a call last week to the publisher of the Silicon Valley Business Journal to find out how it is working with a group similar to our Southern Colorado Economic Forum. It is a small world.

Ron Chernak of First Business Brokers was in Florida last week, and ran into somebody who knew about the call. The message got kind of twisted though, and the person in Florida told Chernak that I was calling to try to get businesses to move to the Springs from Silicon Valley. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea.

Speaking of bad, maybe we don’t have it bad enough here yet for people to realize that we need to fund economic development.

Chernak recently made the comment that maybe “we need to hit some bad times to wake people up and get them to realize we should be planning better.”

Pueblo got that blast of reality when the steel mill and some other companies fell on some bad times. Well, they have it figured out. How much incentive did they give the bull riders? A building and a couple of million dollars?

OK, if this is the case, then I think we need a recession or something to get people to start making plans for real money to be put away for economic development.

Where is the leadership to get this initiative started? Should it be the mayor? City Council? County Commissioners?

I can write that we should be doing this, and I will probably become quite vociferous about this issue.

How about a feasibility study about the chances of getting a tenth of a cent sales tax passed? Yes, I am a registered Republican but I would prefer to say I am a member of the common sense party. Is there such a thing?

Thank you to Askill for doing the biotech survey and thank you ADC Labs, Aqueous Biomedical, Aspire Biotech, CEA Technologies, Chemins, HemaRx, HemoGenix, Newellink USA, NextGen Pharma, Provident, Pyxant, Spectranetics, Synthes and other biotech companies that call the Springs home.

We will be working on No. 8.

Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at lon.matejczyk@csbj.com or 329-5206.