We normally take a serious approach in this space, so keep that in mind. What follows might seem like humor to some, but the message is sincere.
Nearly two years have passed since the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce merged with the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. to form the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.
During that time, many have mourned the fact that the new Business Alliance looks and operates far more like an EDC than a Chamber. People should have known that was the general direction, but they still seem surprised, even now.
In the past few months, though, that surprise has taken on a new shape. Now it’s not just about missing the Chamber — it has become more about replacing the Chamber.
That would mean starting a new local organization, specifically to serve the area’s businesses (primarily smaller and midsized companies) more like the Chamber did for so many years.
We’ve heard five or six versions of potential proposals, some prominent and others behind the scenes.
Tim Leigh, who built a name for himself locally in commercial real estate with his Hoff & Leigh Inc. before serving on City Council (2011-13), suggested to his email list that residents concerned about the lack of new first-rate jobs should recall the Business Alliance, not members of City Council. Leigh’s solution would be a new Colorado Springs Chamber open to all businesses, no matter how small, charging very inexpensive dues.
That would be tough to pull off, but for all the crazy ideas Leigh comes up with, sometimes he’s on track. Perhaps a lower initial rate for startups and one-person operations, scaled higher from there?
We’ve also heard of organizers wanting to put together something more like what the Chamber had been, with more social events and helpful programs. Yet another rumor suggests that a concept might be developing among the city’s young professionals.
And lest we forget, the Business Alliance — also bolstered with impressive new board additions — recently announced it was combining forces for some events and programs with the Small Business Development Center and the Better Business Bureau, a smart move that fulfills some of the same intentions. But there’s still nothing to stop anybody from trying to start a new Chamber of Commerce.
Here’s our idea: If interest is sufficient, let’s have a true town hall meeting, one late afternoon at the City Auditorium, and allow any individuals or groups (that would include the Business Alliance’s new collaboration) to present their plans and answer questions from the audience. Somebody could videotape each presentation and put them online. Then, with some kind of security measures to prevent ballot-stuffing, people could vote their preference.
Silly, you say? We don’t think so. If we truly have a handful or more of ideas floating around, why not bring it to a head with a public forum? Perhaps one would stand out. Several might be combined into a workable solution. Or, possibly, nothing works. So what’s wrong with putting everyone on the spot, giving them a platform and hearing their proposals?
If anyone wants to help on this, or even be a presenter, you know where to find us.