Draper: Perfect fit for Regional Business Alliance

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Four months ago, when the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance began looking for a new president and CEO, the group’s leaders promised a thorough search that would focus on finding the best candidate — preferably someone already in our midst.

That, plus the RBA setting up a selection committee to come up with possible options, raised hopes for an outcome that would qualify as a legitimate home run.

But when many weeks passed without news, and with only a few rumors, that optimism began drifting toward concern.

Then came the announcement last Friday, March 20, that CH2M Hill executive Dirk Draper would take over the Business Alliance starting May 1.

It wasn’t just a home run. It was a game-winning grand slam, definitely worth the time consumed in the selection process.

Draper certainly is no stranger to the business community. He chaired the former Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce board in 2010, and he has served on too many other boards, committees and special task forces to count.

Several impressive indicators stand out as vital to Draper being able to hit the ground running.

For starters, he’s already connected. He knows who the city’s important players are, on center stage and behind the scenes. He has seen for himself how the Business Alliance hasn’t gotten along so well with City Council the past few years, and he has paid attention to the lessons that still could be applied from the Chamber-EDC merger that created the RBA three years ago.

Just as important, though, is the boundless positive energy Draper brings to this position. The head of the Business Alliance should be able, with no warning, to step forward and lead any kind of discussion — large groups or small — and that’s one of Draper’s strengths.

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He might disagree with others but they’ll never know it, as he draws out everyone else’s opinions.

[/pullquote]He’s a superb, instant facilitator, quick on his feet in responding constructively to whatever anyone else has to say, and never in a combative way. He might disagree with others but they’ll never know it, as he draws out everyone else’s opinions without being heavy-handed and forcing his own views on the rest of the room.

Finally, Draper isn’t and won’t be a political animal. He’ll come to City Council, the Board of County Commissioners, even the state Legislature and the Colorado Office for Economic Development and International Trade, always well-prepared and ready to make a convincing but not condescending case for Colorado Springs. And he won’t require months to get up to speed. He’s walking in the door with that expertise.

This doesn’t mean Draper can guarantee a fresh string of immediate, stunning successes in persuading companies to move or expand here, adding hundreds of primary jobs. That effort is always ongoing, and one of the best things Draper can do now is work with the Business Alliance’s staff and hopefully wrap up some potentially notable victories that already are close to happening.

At the same time, Draper also knows he needs to work on giving the RBA’s existing members plenty of TLC, as he’s already indicated by saying he’ll be doing a lot of listening at the start.

But don’t think for a minute that means Dirk Draper will move slowly. He only has one gear that we’ve seen — fast, constantly on the go, always willing to lead.

Those characteristics are exactly what the Regional Business Alliance needs now. It should be enjoyable to watch.

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