Washington, D.C. — While most of the 50 people attending the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance annual trip to the nation’s capital were still on airplanes Monday afternoon, Mayor John Suthers was busy marketing the city to five different businesses.
“These were businesses in cyber security technology and space technology,” he said. “The good news is that they were already very aware of the Springs and what we do here.”
The Regional Business Alliance takes a group of city and business leaders to Washington, D.C., every year to meet elected officials and lobby on behalf of the city. The group divides into groups to tackle health care, military and other legislative concerns.
Suthers said his job on the annual D.C. trip was a little different than the typical person who attends. Instead of being briefed, he actively markets the city to the area. The five businesses either are in the city and considering expanding — or thinking of moving here. He declined to name any of the businesses.
“The good news is that they know we have a good quality of life here, they know the political climate here is improving,” Suthers said. “But they needed convincing that the workforce they need is here — the big issue is if there is the type of talent here to make it worth their while to expand or move.”
Suthers said he had his work cut out for him — the companies are being heavily courted by other cities.
“The type of companies we’re talking with and the high-paying jobs that we are seeking, there are a lot of cities who want them as well,” he said. “I don’t know how we convince them to come here without offering incentives. Fortunately, I think our programs here make us very competitive.”
Since Suthers has been in office, the city has moved to expand its Commercial Aeronautics Zone at the Colorado Springs Airport to match the boundaries of the already existing Enterprise Zone. Businesses in those zones receive a series of tax incentives based on purchases and job growth.
But the city also has its own strengths, he said. Cyber security and space operations are a major part of the missions of both Schriever and Peterson Air Force bases. There are various initiatives to train people for those jobs, as well starting with Braxton Technologies’ Catalyst Campus. The International Space Foundation is headquartered here, and the city is home to several small- and medium-sized businesses that specialize in cyber security and space operations.
“Plus, there are so many positive things here,” he said. “It’s not just the improving political climate — we have the Olympic Museum, the City for Champions projects, several positive things. Word is getting out that we are business friendly.”
The city isn’t working alone, he said. Colorado Springs is collaborating with the state’s Office of Economic development and International Trade to provide more incentives and the right package to the companies who pick Colorado Springs.
So when can the city expect to hear the good news about each company’s choice? Soon, Suthers said.
“All I can say is that the Regional Business Alliance will have their work cut out for them, working with OEDIT, to get these incentives ready,” he said. “Some companies are just waiting to hear about contract awards before they decide about expanding or relocating — and figuring out where they should be.”
As for Suthers? He has another busy day on Tuesday — spending it at the Pentagon, promoting the Springs to military leaders. With more than 40 percent of the Springs’ economy resting on its military bases, it’s important to keep in touch with decision makers in D.C.
He’s optimistic about the future.
“I think we have a very good chance of growing those missions,” he said. “It’s a chance to let them know that we are interested in doing just that — while we’re also growing the city’s private enterprises.”
Editor’s Note: This is the first of three articles about the Regional Business Alliance’s trip to Washington, D.C.