On Tuesday, while we were meeting with the Department of Labor, a loud horn sounded and a message was broadcast over a loud speaker telling us to “shelter in place.”

It was only a drill but it really gives you the feel of how tight security is. We have had to go through metal detectors and show full identification before entering every federal building we have visited.

Our first meeting Tuesday morning was with Dan Mastromarco, one of the authors of “A Fair Tax,” a white paper that proposes totally reforming the current tax structure.

The Fair Tax plan:

  • Creates jobs, where the current system destroys jobs
  • Gives you your whole paycheck. No federal withholding
  • Eliminates Social Security withholding
  • Eliminates corporate taxes and cost of compliance
  • Dramatically lowers effective tax rates
  • Allows families to increase savings
  • Allows homeowners to make their mortgage payments with pretax dollars
  • Frees wasted time with the Internal Revenue Service
  • Raises the same amount of revenue
  • Taxes the trillion-dollar underground, criminal, drug and porn economies
  • Eliminates the IRS as we know it

There were some skeptics in the group – namely, Kelly Roth and Vic Andrews.

“I thought TABOR (Taxpayers Bill of Rights) was good when I first heard it years ago,” Andrews said. “Nobody talked about the ratchet effect then.”

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There was enough interest, however, that the group decided to have lunch with Mastromarco and discuss the plan further.

Department of Labor update

We again found out that Colorado Springs may not be doing all it can to get federal grants for work force assistance.

There is a national emergency grant that provides assistance to areas that suffer sudden job losses, such as a plant closing or natural disaster. We discussed whether money would be available to help with the growth the Springs will experience because of the troop level increases at Fort Carson. It would be the first time the grant would be used pro-actively rather than reactively.

The business team determined that there should be a committee or some type of structure to ensure that we are taking advantage of all the federal work force grants.

The president’s high-growth job training initiative also was discussed. Fourteen high-growth industries have been identified by the Department of Labor.

Those industries key to our area include aerospace, biotechnology, homeland security, information technology and geospatial technology.

The plan is being implemented by the Employment and Training Administration.

As part of the Community College Initiative, $125 million will be made available to increase capacity in high-demand occupations like health care.

The Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development initiative also was discussed again. The group was told that bonus points are awarded to grant proposals when economic development is included as high priority. We also learned the communities that did not receive grants will receive coaching in how to submit a better proposal.

John McWilliam, the deputy assistant secretary for operation and management, told the group about the “one-stop career center, the returning soldiers re-hiring requirements.” You will be hearing more on this, as well as the “hire vets first” program.

Department of Transportation update

We met with David Kelly, deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Transportation, near the end of the day.

Kelly said there needs to be more public-private partnerships because by 2009 the highway trust fund will run out of money. “We need to take a strong look at how we will finance road construction in the future” he said.

Indiana, which is seemingly on the cutting edge when it comes to public- private partnerships, is leasing a toll road to a private company for $4 billion. This will provide a surplus of dollars for Indiana highways for some time.

Western states face the most opposition to toll roads, Kelly said.

International Team update

Here is an update from the international team leader, George Boutin.

The international team looks for new business opportunities for Colorado Springs businesses. Monday began with calls at the U.S. Chamber and at the International Trade Administration, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Both agencies provided overviews of their services to business. In addition, the U.S. Chamber described trade relations with Australia and Jordan, and the Commerce Department gave us some background on trade relations with China. The international team will be visiting the embassies of all three of those countries on Tuesday.

Our visit to the Department of Commerce was highlighted by a call on Assistant Secretary Israel Hernandez, who is the director general of the Foreign Commercial Service. The assistant secretary took up this position in October after serving as a deputy to White House Advisor Karl Rove. Hernandez promised that his next stop in Colorado would include a visit to Colorado Springs.

The afternoon began with a call at the National Council for International Visitors. NCIV works with the Department of State to bring influential leaders from foreign countries for month-long visits to the United States. Many world leaders, such as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, have participated in this program early in their careers.

The international team made a presentation about Colorado Springs as part of our effort to bring more of these people to our city.

The last stop was the Department of State. First, we were treated to a tour of the eighth floor reception rooms where the secretary of state hosts her counterparts from around the world. These rooms are furnished with American antiques from the Revolutionary period.

Following the tour, we had a briefing from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Tappan about the situation in Iraq. Tappan said that the conditions in Iraq are better than they might seem to those who have to rely on the U.S. media for their information.

He said the administration is grateful for the sacrifices being made by the military.

You can e-mail questions or special requests while I’m in D.C. to lon.matejczyk@csbj.com