For years, city officials declared Colorado Springs to be the “most business-friendly city in the state,” but current politicians are leaving out a major part of that slogan: the businesses.
The Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax committee gave its funding recommendations to City Council this week and failed to provide any money for the Small Business Development Center, a major player in assisting startups and small businesses.
There doesn’t seem to be any money for the organization in the mayor’s proposed budget either, leaving the SBDC without $55,000 of its $250,000 budget — and potentially leaving local small businesses without a vital advocate.
The LART committee chairman, Fred Veitch, told Council that economic development isn’t part of the tourism industry and shouldn’t get money.
He’s wrong — as a steady stream of SBDC supporters told Council Monday afternoon. Also, the ordinance that sets aside LART money explicitly says it can be used for economic development.
Without the SBDC, recovery after the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires would have stagnated. The agency provided disaster recovery assistance, grants and emergency preparedness plans for the future to businesses harmed by the disasters.
Even without the aid given during fires and floods, the organization routinely provides startup assistance to restaurants where tourists dine, to the art galleries they visit, to curio stores and boutiques where tourists shop.
To ignore the business side of tourism is to ignore the enormous impact these small, family-owned businesses bring to Colorado Springs.
Tourism isn’t just about events. It’s about bringing people here — and keeping them here. Supporting events organized by people outside the city brings cash to the city’s coffers, but supporting the businesses that benefit from those events will increase the LART money significantly.
And if LART isn’t the right place for the SBDC or the Regional Business Alliance (which received a $35,000 recommendation from LART and is asking for $35,000 more from the general fund), then City Council must find the money that allows the SBDC to continue its mission.
For the past decade, the city has provided a share of the money for SBDC, first from the general fund, then from LART. For every dollar the city spends, it receives a return on that investment of $58.69. That support led the Small Business Administration to name the local SBDC office the best in six states and in the Top 10 of all 1,100 SBDC offices nationwide.
Without that support, jobs won’t be created or retained (702 jobs retained, 418 created in three years), capital investment will stagnate ($12 million since 2013) and clients won’t receive mentorship or counseling (1,500 small business owners helped).
El Paso County ponies up its share: SBDC is housed in the county’s administration complex on Garden of the Gods Road, and the county provides office support, human resource assistance, payroll help.
The numbers and the successes speak for themselves. Small business owners are revitalizing empty buildings, providing jobs and taxes. They deserve an advocate like the SBDC.
Now it’s time for City Council to act — put its money where its slogan is, and provide the needed funding to keep the Colorado Springs Small Business Development Center fully operational