Colorado Springs isn’t known for its entrepreneurship or its manufacturing. Most people look at Boulder for startups and Pueblo for manufacturing, but this week, people got a glimpse of a couple of this city’s success stories.
StartUp Week began with a 54-hour business plan competition, and kept it going all week with more than 70 speakers and professional mentors. The goal is to provide the right resources and connections to people involved with small businesses.
The Southern Colorado Manufacturing Expo provided a chance for people to view the growing manufacturing sector and connect those companies with suppliers, services and capital. With nearly 100 companies exhibiting at the event, it is a clear sign that manufacturing is experiencing a comeback in the Pikes Peak region.
Sponsored by the Pikes Peak Manufacturing Partnership, the expo’s mission is to attract promising talent to jobs and careers in manufacturing by promoting industry, providing education and training, and working together to develop a vital part of the state’s economy.
Taken separately, both events highlight the need for more connections and resources in the city’s business sector. Startups need capital, networking and resources. Manufacturing needs skilled workers, technology and machinery.
But taken together, each segment highlights how the economy is growing in Colorado Springs and the state. Today’s startups are tomorrow’s economically successful small businesses, which provide the backbone of the state’s economy.
Small businesses employ half the state’s workers, with 563,917 small firms employing 991,542 people. The manufacturing sector covers 5,900 businesses with more than 120,000 employees and $16.3 billion in annual economic output. More than 100 of those companies are in the Springs.
Both events highlight the need for more connections and more resources in the city’s business sector.
Both events point to recovery and a buildup to full steam: more people interested in providing capital to startups, more manufacturers looking to hire qualified workers. Colorado Springs is ready to respond to both needs, with manufacturing certifications at Pikes Peak Community College and advanced engineering degrees at UCCS.
Colorado Springs provides incentives to manufacturers, with a sales tax break on heavy machinery. The city works in conjunction with the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade to make sure that startups can get their products traded on the global market, while providing advanced manufacturing grants to businesses throughout the state.
There’s a lot going on in Springs business that points to positive growth. The CSBJ celebrated that this week with its Fastest- Growing Companies awards (see pages 17-24). The Business Journal hopes to highlight success while providing the resources needed for businesses to make informed decisions for their industry.
All three events showcase the fact that the local economy is improving rapidly. Unemployment is just over 5 percent; commercial real estate has an 8 percent vacancy rate. Business appears on the upswing, and while the road might have some bumps in it, it’s time we celebrated the successes instead of always focusing on the potholes along the way.
So join the local startup community and the manufacturing sector in celebrating what’s best about doing business in Colorado Springs.