WASHINGTON, D.C. — For new El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller, the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance annual Impact trip to Washington, D.C.,  was about building community ties.

“It’s been a fun trip,” he said. “Certainly, there are partnerships that will come out of this trip — with Cisco [Systems] and the [U.S.] Chamber of Commerce. But we’re forging more and better relationships with the city and the county, the county and the business community. It’s a great trip for me, on a personal level because I’m able to help build those relationships. You put people together for two or three days, that’s easier to do. There are no distractions. As the new guy, that’s really important to me. “

Sallie Clark, a veteran on the El Paso County Board of Commissioners and on the RBA trip, said the key was that the group was able to speak with one voice on issues that affect the entire region.

“Things like widening Interstate 25,” she said, “or the National Cyber Center. People can talk about disagreements between the city and the county, but there are issues we can speak with one voice on — and it’s important to get in front of our congressional delegation and their staff.”

Meeting face-to-face has benefits missing from discussing issues over the phone or in Colorado Springs, she said.

“When they are in Colorado Springs, there are all these distractions,” she said. “But here, they see you in person, and you get to know the staff, the people who will be dealing with any issue you call about. If they know you and you’ve built those relationships, then you’re likely to get results.”

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Clarissa Arellano, government affairs, media and public policy director at the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors, has been on most of the Impact trips since 1999 — even before she was with the association.

“It strengthens those relationships with community members that you can’t always catch up with in the Springs. It’s a great time to get together and find ways you can collaborate. We’re all busy, and the trip itself is filled with those important congressional and business meetings, but it gives everyone a chance to connect the dots between industries and a chance to find ways to create a stronger community.”

But it’s not all networking and relationships. The group of 49 people divided into four tracks: health care, to discuss the recent decision to change TriCare companies from United Healthcare to Health Net; community development, designed to discover new ways to strengthen the community; defense, with meetings at the Pentagon to discuss the city’s strong military presence; and cybersecurity, meetings to highlight the Springs’ National Cyber Center.

For more about the Impact trip, see this week’s Business Journal.