How will we remember 2014 in regard to the Colorado Springs business community?
There’s no single message or theme that stands out, unless you want to continue slamming the unproductive relationship between Mayor Steve Bach and City Council. Of course, we’ve watched that script evolve and worsen since Bach took over as the first “strong mayor” in June 2011.
So it really wasn’t anything new or unexpected, and there is hopeful news brightening the end of a very long tunnel.
Rookie Councilor Joel Miller, who had much to do with instigating negative tactics against Bach, City for Champions and other issues such as the Urban Renewal Authority, resigned his seat in late November to run for mayor (he’s a long shot at best). And Bach recently announced he won’t run for a second term in the April 2015 election, raising the chances for a more unifying personality in that office soon — whether his successor is John Suthers, Mary Lou Makepeace or Amy Lathen.
Meanwhile other developments have helped end 2014 with a more optimistic outlook.
Joe Raso’s departure at the end of November after two-plus years as president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance appears to have cleared the way for a new direction, as the RBA leans toward a local replacement. To his credit, Raso took the high road in his quiet exit, but the organization’s leaders sound determined to apply lessons learned from his missteps.
Sheriff Terry Maketa will be leaving office Dec. 31, taking with him the unresolved scandals and ongoing investigations that seriously tarnished not only the end of his 12-year tenure but the public’s confidence in elected officials. His successor, Bill Elder, already has been working to repair the damage caused by Maketa, which cast Colorado Springs in a rotten light for companies considering relocation here.
Otherwise, 2014 brought a steady supply of business-related news, much more good than bad, and not just focused on one portion of the metro region (more details in the Focus section).
In north-central Colorado Springs, the rising prominence of University Village Colorado became more pronounced with the opening of this region’s first Trader Joe’s, sparking more construction for additional tenants to come.
Just across North Nevada Avenue, UCCS opened its Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences, serving older area residents as well as educating future health-care professionals (and soon housing a segment of the University of Colorado School of Medicine). Other projects enhancing UCCS’ future continue to rise from the ground.
To the southwest, The Broadmoor added to its five-star stature with the re-opening of the upgraded Broadmoor West, the Cloud Camp on Cheyenne Mountain and the Broadmoor Fishing Camp north of Lake George.
Around the airport, after creation of a new commercial zone with tax breaks, several companies added to their operations while the Business Alliance used that improved asset in recruiting other manufacturers to give Colorado Springs a closer look.
And to the west, Manitou Springs enjoyed a big rebound with the likelihood of ending 2014 by setting tax revenue records, helped immensely by the opening of El Paso County’s first (and still only) recreational marijuana store. Licensed by Manitou’s City Council and “ratified” by a resounding November public vote of 65-35 percent, the Maggie’s Farm business appeared likely to finish the year having produced at least $500,000 in unbudgeted tax revenue for Manitou’s coffers with much more to come, a huge infusion after the storm-marred years of 2012-2013.
As for downtown Colorado Springs, the start of construction on several affordable residential projects should lead to more like them. And when that momentum reaches a certain point, more business development will follow.
Also, throughout the area, residential real estate sales have been strong, with 699 sales in November averaging at 98.3 percent of the listing price and no single area of the county selling at lower than 97.2 percent of the listing price.
You hear enough stories such as those, along with increasing efforts toward workforce development involving local manufacturers, school districts and higher ed, and you simply can’t look on 2014 in a negative way.
I’ve been asking numerous people connected to the business scene for a quick synopsis, short and succinct, to describe this year. Answers have ranged from “OK except for stormwater” to “treading stormwater” — mostly straddling the fence between upbeat and downcast.
One response, however, perfectly defined how I feel about 2014 as we prepare for new calendars. It’s actually an unfinished sentence.
“We’re definitely on the threshold …”
You don’t usually finish that thought with a downer. When you’re “on the threshold,” the anticipation is firmly in place. And it’s justified.