Mark your calendars, set your alarms and have Breakfast with the Journal on April 21.

The event, “What Drives Us?” will welcome state and local experts in the fields of tourism, defense, health care and aerospace to the breakfast at the DoubleTree World Arena.

Discussion will include the statewide and regional economic impact of the top industries, as well as how the business community can support and access these economic drivers.

Speakers will include Doug Price, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau; Andy Merritt, chief defense industry officer for the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance; Tatiana Bailey, director of the Southern Colorado Economic Forum; and Jay Lindell, aerospace and defense industry champion with the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

Good as ever

According to Price, the travel industry in Colorado Springs has been on a hot streak.

“Tourism in the Springs right now is as good as it’s ever been, with this caveat: Adjusted for inflation, 1997 was the best year tourism ever had in this community, and it was the last year Western Pacific [Airlines] flew here,” Price said, adding that Frontier Airlines’ new direct flights between Colorado Springs Airport and Las Vegas and (beginning in June) to Phoenix could propel the industry beyond that old record.

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“Big picture, I want people to understand how the lodging and auto rental tax collected really saves people money in this community, because those taxes are generated through tourist spending,” he said. The tax includes a 1 percent levy on car rentals and 2 percent on lodging rentals.

Price said he also planned to discuss the Olympic City USA brand, as well as the economic impact from sports and wellness industries.

“I’ll certainly talk about City for Champions and the four tourism projects’ impact on the community, and will tie it back to Gen. [William Jackson] Palmer’s initial vision for our community. He absolutely had the idea the city would be popular with English tourists — a little London. His grand vision was for this sophisticated town. I think we need to be reminded of those roots.”

‘A great catalyst’

Colorado is a great fit for the aerospace ecosystem, according to Lindell.

“The sector is very dynamic and vibrant and is a great catalyst for economic growth in the state,” he said.

Lindell said Colorado is desirable for companies to expand or relocate because of the access to talent and the lifestyle, adding the state’s aerospace economy is growing faster than the national average.

“Even when there was a downturn due to budget declines, Colorado’s heavy Department of Defense industry sector still maintained at least its economic baseline, where other states declined,” he said.

Lindell said El Paso County has a particularly abundant talent supply due to its heavy military and veteran presence.

“There’s a lot of talent that comes out of defense-oriented businesses,” he said.

Lindell said it’s difficult to put a specific value on Colorado’s aerospace industry, but pointed to a Department of Military and Veterans Affairs report that tallied the total economic impact of defense in the state at $27 billion annually.

Lindell said that’s a sizeable chunk of the state’s economy, and communities should focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education to support the industry and sustain future growth.

Health care moving forward

Bailey’s breakfast presentation will focus on health care in the region.

“I will hone in upon health care’s contribution to gross metropolitan product and the percentage of total employees who work in the health care industry,” Bailey said in an email. “I also have information on the current job postings and will focus upon the jobs demanded that are in the health care sector. Lastly, I have some projections [from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment] on the impact of the health care industry moving forward.”

According to numbers compiled by the Southern Colorado Economic Forum, regional health care and social assistance positions in 2014 accounted for nearly 35,000 jobs or 14 percent of total employment. The average annual wage within the industry was just short of $47,000.

A talent pool

According to the Regional Business Alliance, the Pikes Peak region has more than 100 aerospace and defense, and more than 200 high-tech companies in operation.

Merritt will discuss the region’s diverse military and defense presence, which includes five military installations, but also operations of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command, Air Force Space Command, U.S. Army Space & Missile Defense Command/Army Strategic Command, Missile Defense Integrated Operations Center, Air Force Academy, Joint Functional Component Command/Integrated Missile Defense and the National Security Space Institute.

Merritt has said that the existing military infrastructure, a locally based national cybersecurity intelligence center and the capabilities of many private-sector companies mean Colorado Springs has the talent and infrastructure to support and grow local defense industries.

Breakfast with the Journal
“What Drives Us?”

When: Thursday, April 21,  7-9 a.m.

Where: DoubleTree World Arena, 1775 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd.

Cost: $25-$35

Guest Speakers:

•  Travel and Tourism: Doug Price, Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau

•  Defense: Andy Merritt, Regional Business Alliance

•  Health Care: Tatiana Bailey, Southern Colorado Economic Forum

•  Aerospace: Jay Lindell, Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade

RSVP today!