Within the next 18 months, the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC will have a new name, new office space, a new organizational hierarchy and a new vision.

That’s the word from President and CEO Joe Raso, who spoke to a crowd of about 200 business, military and community leaders this morning, sharing his view of the future and the direction the newly merged Chamber and EDC will take.


Raso said the new group will create a vision for the next 20 years, building on the work of former economic development plans such as the 6035 project and Dream City 2020.

“With a vision, then you can plan,” he said. “And you can work to put that plan in place.”

Raso, who moved here two months ago from Iowa, where he was  president and CEO of the Iowa City Area Development Group, said he has been focused on meeting with business and community leaders during his time here.

“I’ve had about 200 meetings in the first two months, just to hear what you are saying,” he said. “And what we’ve heard is that you’re glad there’s a merged organization, but you don’t want the groups doing the same things, just under the same roof. You want a merged plan as well.”

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Raso said the community needed to grow its economic “bucket,” the amount of people and wealth it can sustain. He said this is done by not only building businesses already here, but also by attracting businesses that will make most of their money from outside the region. He said the group will focus on job creation and workforce development, as well as recruiting new businesses.

The chamber and EDC also will be more involved in government affairs.

“And I’ll tell the state and local business leaders that we’re in the business of government affairs, because we’re in the business-development business,” he said. “(State Rep.) Pete Lee might have no trouble saying no to me, but he’ll have a harder time saying no to an entire business community.”

He’ll also be working to develop statewide relationships with Denver and Pueblo, he said.

“Colorado Springs isn’t really an island, but I can tell you, as a newcomer, you’re perceived that way,” he said. “You might not agree with it, but that’s the way you’re viewed. We have to reach out to the north, we have to reach out south.”

The entire Front Range working in concert will bring more economic development opportunities, he said.

Another big issue to work on: workforce development. Raso said the city wasn’t known as a place with “mojo,” or as a cool, hip city that attracts professionals.

He quoted from “When the Boomers Bail,” by Mark Lautman.

“If you’re community isn’t producing enough qualified new workers … and you are not one of those cool, hip places that attract talented workers, then you will be out of headroom to grow your economy,” he said.


  • Joe S.

    Good grief…you people just don’t get it. Professionals will go wherever they are most needed and most appreciated. If that’s not the Springs then it’s because they’re either not needed here or are not appreciated enough to make it worth their trouble to come here. They aren’t going to come just because some out-of-touch bureaucrats are trying to make it a “hip” place to be. Get real, people.

    The Springs is a place where wealthy people come to retire and spend their money on stupid crap like garden ornaments and pet spas. The rest is mostly military related in some form. The tourists come here to drop a few bucks on hotel rooms and tourist stuff, then they go home and make their plans to return here once they’ve made their fortunes elsewhere and and ready to buy some lawn ornaments of their own.

    When trying to solve a problem, ninety percent of the battle is correctly identifying the root of the problem in the first place. I have yet to see any of our so-called leaders identify the real problems in this city. Address the fact that what money does come here gets spent on lawn ornaments instead of real economic investment and then we might start seeing some results.

    Nobody here with real money is using that money to fund new and/or expanded local business activities. Nobody with real investment money from outside this city is going to invest into this city’s economy when the people who are already here aren’t willing to do it themselves. And when the best we can come up with are leaders to want to make a “hip, cool” place to attract those “talented professionals” from other places, the outsiders just laugh at us and keep their money invested in cities that are actually going places instead of just sitting around and talking like dreaming children.

    You want to improve this city’s economy? Quit talking about it and get off your butts and do something meaningful with your time and money. The professionals will come once there is a legitimate reason for them to be here.

  • David E.

    To characterize Rep. Pete Lee as unresponsive to or antithetical to the local business community couldn’t be more inaccurate. Rep. Lee is not unlike Gov. Hickenlooper, both pro-business/business friendly democrats. At virtually every business-related issue during legislative sessions, Rep. Lee is on the phone with the Chamber, its Legislative Watch Council and other leaders in the local business community soliciting inputs, educating himself, and responding to the needs and strategic imperatives of the Chamber and the business community more broadly.

    It’s disappointing to say the least that he might be cast in any other way.