A self-described, reformed hippie, Fred Veitch once played drums in a rock ‘n’ roll band that opened for bands like The Doors and Jefferson Airplane.
Fast-forward a few years — after moving to the Springs in 1969, his marriage to Linda, three children and six grandchildren -— and you’ll find Veitch crafting ideas, developing land and marketing the company as vice president of Nor’wood Development Group. When not working, Veitch volunteers for several groups in the Pikes Peak region. He is co-chairman of the Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax advisory committee, which helps the city decide what to do with money collected from the hospitality industry to promote tourism in Colorado Springs. He also is active with the Colorado Springs Rotary organization, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo. Veitch sat down with the Business Journal to talk about Colorado Springs, the development industry and LART.
How does the economy affect development?
We can only respond to markets. We don’t make markets. There’s a sense sometimes with people that if we build it, they will come. That’s not true. They will only come if there’s a market demand for the product, and you do what the consumer needs and wants. If you don’t develop what the consumer needs and wants, you will not be successful. In the end, what we really need to be good at is finding out what people really want and then trying to give them choices. We think it’s better when we have competition, so we can say we have the better product.
What does the future look like for Colorado Springs development?
In the commercial division, we respond to rooftops and demand. In the last couple years, there’s been a need for greater apartment construction, so we entered into that business. But we’re not committed to that business long-term. We’re committed to downtown because we are very strong believers in downtown and we own a lot of property downtown. In some cases we’ve been sitting on that property for years and years and years. We’re very excited for downtown, but it’s going to take some time for downtown to see its potential. Downtown Denver has certainly gone crazy — in a good way. We think it’s time for downtown Colorado Springs.
What challenges face development companies like yours?
Our industry, like most, is very cyclic. The challenge is: There’s always too much; then it shuts down and then there’s not enough. Our industry is hard to have consistency. That lack of consistency creates its own set of issues … here [Nor’wood] … we’re a very conservative group … we’re not speculative. We’re very long-term oriented. We look at projects with 15-, 20-, 30-, 50-year horizons, where other groups may look at things in terms of two or three years.
How has the Springs business community changed since you’ve been here?
We’ve gone from a very sleepy, kind-of-small town to a much larger, robust city. Obviously, things change. It used to be very few people having input on decisions. Now it’s very diverse, very wide and very opinionated. I think that’s a good thing.
Is there more collaboration in Colorado Springs?
People are starting to sit down and really be collaborative, which in my opinion will really make us a much better community. You see collaboration on things like South Academy Boulevard. I have seen the city, the county and the state really get together and do some positive things down there. On North Nevada, there are tremendous opportunities up there to be supportive for the University of Colorado expansion and growth.
As co-chairman for LART, what do you think the future looks like?
I’m very excited about it. [In the past] my sense was LART wasn’t being strategic at all in its allocations and its giving. We reconstituted the group. Some people complain there is some paperwork to fill out, but if you’re going to make good business decisions based on reinvestments, you should ask basic questions -— what is the money going to be used for? What’s the impact?
Will LART collections broaden to include regional attractions?
Our LART collection, in terms of what we charge under the ordinance, is minimal compared with almost every other similar city in the United States. The industry that’s collecting the tax, the hospitality industry, they think it’s woefully low. Large attractions also don’t contribute to LART, as well as adjacent counties, which we actually market for on a regional basis.
What would surprise people to know about you?
I was the drummer for a band called the Eighth Penny Matter that got [Denver music promoter] Barry Fey into the music business. We traveled with The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company … groups like that. I am a reformed hippie. We were the house band for [Denver nightclub] The Family Dog. We were a fraternity band from the University of Denver.
I always wanted to play the drums. But my parents did not want me to play the drums, so I faked my way into a band in college having never played the drums. I was self-taught and a quick learner. I love all kinds of music. I’ll listen to rock ‘n’ roll for a week, country for a week, symphonic for a week.
In 2014, I set the Pikes Peak Hill Climb record in the Time Attack 2 Class at age 67 driving a 14-year-old Porsche. The fun thing about the band and driving is, you meet people totally outside of what you do. But you have relationships that otherwise, you would never have.