I often wish that I had moved to the Springs 10 years ago so that I would know the history behind some of the issues our community is facing and have a better understanding about why some things are the way they are around here.
Because of my relatively short tenure, I’m often caught asking questions along the lines of “why is it this way?” or “who was behind that decision?”
It seems to me that we are on the cusp of becoming a bigger, better – and dare I say – a world-class city.
The Imagine Downtown exercises are now in action mode. The initiative brought together a group of strong leaders with diverse interests for five daylong planning sessions.
The participants identified 20 strategic focus areas for downtown development.
Readers of this column probably know that I am passionate about economic development and downtown. As I have said before – as downtown goes, so goes the region.
Now I get the opportunity to combine these passions.
Susan Edmondson, the executive director of the Bee Vrandenburg Foundation, and I are heading up the Economic Strength and Vitality sub-committee of Imagine Downtown.
Our goals are clear: to attract primary jobs, to attract regional anchors, to increase arts and culture, and to increase retail businesses.
The committee’s 17 members will be the sales force for downtown. I see this as almost a mini-economic development corporation.
With the inception of the Downtown Development Authority, there could be a significant amount of money available that could be used for incentives. How about that?
Mike Kazmierski, the CEO of the Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp., is a member of the committee. And since there seems to be a general consensus in our community against offering incentives, maybe Mike can get some relief through the sub-committee.
Susan and I see this as a pretty aggressive project. We will be using the Xceligent commercial properties database as one tool to search for available space downtown. We also will develop a testimonial form for downtown businesses to identify the benefits to employers of being downtown.
What if we were able to find a primary employer with 600 workers? What could that do for the vitality of our already vibrant downtown?
Where are we going to find these companies? Denver? San Diego? Maybe the north end of the county? We will see.
Perception of the Springs
One thing the committee may have an upstream battle against is the national and regional perception of Colorado Springs.
Darsey Nicklasson, who recently moved here from the Washington, D.C., area, stopped by my office this week to get acquainted.
Darsey mentioned that she has family in Denver, and said that when she told them she was moving here, their response was: “How could you live in that city? It is so conservative.”
I told her that I thought the perception of Colorado Springs being a right-wing city was off base. I don’t think we really are that conservative.
Isn’t Manitou Springs home a large Wicca population? Walk down Tejon Street. I see plenty of people that don’t look far-right Republican to me.
Again, it comes back to who has the national microphone.
Our area is not all about New Life Church and Focus on the Family. We are a diverse city – we just have to let people know. The Diversity Forum is working on this piece of how we tell our story.
One thing that does hurt our perception is City Council voting down the same-sex insurance benefits program for city employees.
We have some work to do on our national and regional perception.
I, for one, would not want to live in Denver. I like the Springs and it irritates me that we have this relatively negative perception.
Could the perception hurt the efforts of the committee? Perhaps, but it also will give us an opportunity to educate others when we make our sales calls.
To the committee members I say good hunting, and I am looking forward to working with all of you.
Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 329-5202.