A headline in your Feb. 10 CSBJ read “Happy trails to you?” The story was about the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and the Museum of the American Cowboy moving to New Mexico.

The PRHC only has about 70 employees, but the move is nonetheless a blow to the business community. We are tied to sports here in the Springs, and maybe placing rodeos in the sports category is arguable, but there will be an impact on tourism.

The bull riders have gone to Pueblo. Now the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame is going to a more aggressive state to the south.

So, what are we doing to fix this exodus from our city?

When are we as a community going to wake up and realize this is a competitive world we live in, and we need to offer incentives. Otherwise, it’s quite possible we are going to die a slow and painful death. We need on average 1,900 new primary jobs each year just to stay even, according to economic consultant Dave Bamberger.

Where are the 175,000 people who will be moving to Banning Lewis Ranch going to work?

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As you might expect, I am and will be a crusader for incentives. Economic development is something I am passionate about. Not just because I want to see a positive, growing community, but because it is such an all-encompassing initiative.

I also have a competitive personality, and while I don’t see economic development as a game, I do see it as an arena that is quite competitive.

The Indianapolis Business Journal published a magazine called Idianapolis Regional Magazine that profiled the economic strengths of the Indianapolis region for its equivalent of our Economic Development Corp. Their tagline is “Competitive by Nature.” Ours is “Great Minds, Great Mountains.”

Come on, folks. Hmmm, what would I rather have, an incentive of a couple of million dollars and free land or a view of Pikes Peak? I guess the businessperson in me would take what is best for the company. The views are great, but “show me the money.”

This brings me to the point of leadership. Do we have forward looking and thinking people in elected offices? Do we have people who are really concerned about the community good, or are they just looking out for themselves and the next election?

To my knowledge, no elected official has beaten even the smallest economic development tax or incentive drum.

The Colorado Springs Leadership Institute, The Forum for Civic Advancement and Leadership Pikes Peak compiled a community issues survey in November and December. This was similar to a survey conducted in October 2003. The only change was the addition of effective community leadership to the selection of community issues.

Participants were asked to respond to an e-mail survey to determine the most important issues in our community.

In 2003, the top-three community issues were adequate physical infrastructure, (51 percent), sufficient employment opportunities/job creations (40 percent) and effective tax policy (30 percent). Only adequate physical infrastructure remained in the top-three issues in the 2005 survey.

The top community issue, chosen by 52 percent of the most recent respondents, was effective community leadership. Community leadership received the highest number of votes by men and women and also from those living here from one year to a lifetime. Comments from respondents included:

  • We need better leadership in so many areas of the community – City Council, county commission, nonprofit boards.
  • There needs to be more of a focus on solving community problems rather than advancing ideology.
  • We can retain our quality of life as we change if the leadership identifies and addresses issues of agreement and concern.
  • Leadership is where a community begins to have success and recognition at the local, state and national level.
  • We need leaders who will speak up and create private/public partnerships to get things done.
  • Effective leadership is essential to push the myriad of issues from diversity to education to job growth.
  • Sometimes, we seem to be balkanized into small interests, not thinking community wide or long-term.
  • Effective and competent leadership is at the root of all else. Most, if not all of the other issues can be addressed if we have the right leaders in government, business, education and the nonprofit sector.
  • More effective community leadership will be bold and courageous in addressing the issues that will improve the quality of life for the whole community.

As you can see by the responses, we have an issue with leadership in our community.

While I am obviously not an elected official, I do spend a lot of money on ink and paper. Maybe I can make the proverbial economic development tax and incentive drum out of newsprint. Expect to hear some drum banging on these pages moving ahead.

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