Cyber City USA.
When Mayor John Suthers announced last fall he’d like to see Colorado Springs become the cyber capital of the world, few expected things to move as quickly as they have.
On the heels of Suthers’ grand announcement, Gov. John Hickenlooper said the state would invest in a National Cyber Intelligence Center and its home would be in Colorado Springs.
Now business leaders around the Springs have taken up the effort to brand the city as the nexus for the cybersecurity industry. In some ways, the concerted effort makes sense. The city already is home to cybersecurity defense efforts with the Army and Air Force bases here. The Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency recognize UCCS, Regis University, Colorado Technical University and the Air Force Academy as top-rated cybersecurity educators.
After this week’s cybersecurity summit, it is clear the city has the basic ingredients for success: the right companies; the necessary public-private partnerships; an active, well-trained workforce; the required military and governmental missions.
So what’s missing? A few vital ingredients — the will to collaborate while also competing in the cyber realm; an infusion of investment capital; and the right culture to take organic growth and turn it into strategic development.
While cybersecurity is projected to grow to a $100 billion industry in the next five years, businesses are competitive by nature. Worries about the bottom line could trump working in concert to better the industry. The city needs strong leadership and robust economic development activity to make sure the industry in this market is large enough for businesses of all sizes to participate.
Venture capital is a missing ingredient in all kinds of technology companies. Only a handful of people in the city earned money from tech startups — and only a handful are willing to take the risk to invest in the city’s fledgling businesses. Attracting venture capital from outside Colorado Springs is vital, and will require taking cybersecurity out of the shadows and into the public view.While government grants can assist, private financial infusions are important to carry the city’s ambitious plans to action.
The cybersecurity industry in Colorado Springs has grown organically, thanks to the emphasis placed on it by government and academic institutions. Private companies are here to access military and government contracts. So far, the assets have grown without assistance. But to make the vision of a national cybersecurity capital a reality, growth must now become deliberate.
It’s more than creating a roadmap to success. Unlike other major efforts in the city — City for Champions comes to mind — businesses, education, government and community leaders must all be on the same page. They must create trust in the vision and elicit buy-in from all areas of the city.
The time for solo efforts is over. The Western Cyber Exchange, Pikes Peak Cyber Champions, Catalyst Campus and the Regional Business Alliance’s technology committee — all must work together to make sure Colorado Springs stays atop the list of cyber-savvy communities.
If we can all work together, in five years, the city could be one of the largest cybersecurity centers in the nation.
To get there will take the concerted efforts of everyone from state government to city leadership.
No naysayers or lone wolves need apply.