Julie Boswell looks back at nearly 30 years working for the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance — and its earlier iterations — and fondly recalls the day she affixed a banner over Tejon Street announcing the expansion of telecom giant MCI to the Springs.
“Back during the [savings and loan] crisis, it was a very, very hard time,” in Colorado Springs, Boswell said. “I saw a lot of investors going through significant financial challenges, selling their homes in order to deal with their professional business issues.
“Then, all of a sudden we started to see this light at the end of the tunnel. It was exciting. People were starting to feel like — wow. There’s hope. [The MCI announcement] really was a signal we were turning the corner.”
Boswell, 67, spent her last day as chief operations officer at the Business Alliance today, July 31. During nearly 30 years in the economic development field, she’s seen ups and downs — as well as a few name changes, a merger and several bosses.
Business Alliance Executive Director Dirk Draper said the organization will “definitely miss her,” and he cited her “deep involvement in the community.
“She’s been a good connector. She’s been a good relationship-builder and really understands how relationships in this city work,” Draper said. “She has been integral for many years in our relationships with our investors, how we market the Business Alliance and how we deliver events for the community.”
Roots across the pond
A native of Cheltenham, England, and a graduate of Christie College, Boswell came to the United States in 1971 to visit her aunt, who lived in El Paso County. The second day here, she met the man who would become her husband six months later.
With the exception of two years in Washington, D.C., Boswell has been a Springs resident since then.
In 1986, she began working at what was then the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp., a part of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce. She stayed with the EDC when it split from the chamber and still later, after it reunited to become the RBA.
Technology has been the biggest change, Boswell said.
“I have staff here who were not born when I started this job,” Boswell said, laughing. “I remember when the fax machine was the new thing.
“Now, you’ve got everything coming at you at once. I’ve got the cell phone going. I’ve got the landline going. I’ve got the email pinging. I’ve got mail coming in from the front desk,” said Boswell, who laughed when she described herself as an “addict to communication.”
“It owns me, rather than me owning it,” she said.
During her time in the Springs, Boswell served on the board of Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado. There, she saw the tangible effects of the economic development she worked at during the day.
“I saw the direct connection between poverty and the lack of a job and what poverty can look like in our community,” she said.
“At Care and Share, you see if somebody doesn’t have a job, what it does to a family, what it does to their health benefits, what it does to their spousal relationship. All of those things tie back to having a decent income, a livelihood. And that’s what the Business Alliance is about — helping businesses grow … that provide good jobs, etc.”
Boswell is departing now because of her positive feelings about the Business Alliance’s recent leadership change.
Joe Raso, former executive director of the RBA, left the organization late last year. Draper, a former project manager with engineering firm CH2MHill, was subsequently hired for the post.
“I feel now, with Dirk here, he has the instincts and the skills that I think will make a significant difference in moving the organization forward,” she said. “My being gone isn’t going to leave any kind of a vacuum with him here, in regard to relationships. Relationships have to work with our member investors, the broader community, elected officials, all of that. I’ve seen it working well, and I’ve seen it not working well, and when it’s not working well, it holds us back.”
Looking to the future
Boswell doesn’t have immediate plans for her post-RBA activities.
“I do think opportunities present themselves, if you allow yourself to be open to the possibilities,” she said.
During her transition away from the RBA, Boswell said she looks forward to “some real down-time. I do not want that alarm clock going off every morning at 5:30, which it has for the past 29 years.”
She wants to visit her father in England and her aunt, who now lives in South Carolina.
She plans to remain engaged in the Colorado Springs community, working on projects with a beginning and a defined end “that have a good impact on the community.”