Kit Roupe is the Republican incumbent for House District 17, and Tony Exum is the Democrat challenger. Recent elections show this seat generally changes hands every two years — and Exum has represented the district in the past.
While Exum did not return repeated phone calls and emails from the Business Journal, Roupe answered questions from the CSBJ about her stance on business growth and development in Colorado Springs.
Roupe is a military veterans who’s lived in Colorado Springs more than 35 years. She has a business degree from UCCS and also earned her master’s degree at the university. A small business owner, Roupe also served on the transportation advisory board for the city.
What do you think of the Colorado business climate? What needs to change?
I think overall Colorado’s business climate has improved, but still needs some changes. I would like to see us focus on Colorado and Colorado Springs’ industry strengths and see where we have shortfalls or under-performance. In addition, I’d like a look at our weaknesses as these pertain to impacts on our strengths. We should create a business climate that builds on our strengths and strengthens the critical weakness in business so we can improve our business climate.
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What issue important to businesses do you plan to tackle if elected?
I believe that small business is critical as it helps support our large businesses. We cannot expect to create all the jobs needed in Colorado Springs, so encouraging entrepreneurship is critical. That’s why I will re-look at introducing small business legislation. I would also like to introduce some industry incentives that build our industries up competitively.
In your view, what are the top industries in Colorado and how should we attract more and retain the businesses we have?
Tourism is a major plus because it brings visitors that may bring future companies and jobs to Colorado. IT and cybersecurity are an amazing asset and we can become a world leader in these areas. Health and wellness is a major consideration and we in Colorado Springs have seen that as a key industry to encourage. Aerospace and defense are a big component for Colorado. Recent studies indicate almost every county has a role to play in these industries and could help the entire state if fostered correctly.
Recycling/remanufacturing. Although not spoken of often, I believe this is an underperforming opportunity for Colorado. We are not the best at recycling, amazingly, and I believe that new products and manufacturing can evolve from recycled materials, creating a growing, positive industry for all of Colorado.
Film. I am occasionally concerned about the types of film that have taken advantage of our credits; however, OEDIT’s offices are doing great and we’ve seen some improvements. I believe exposure in film credits and commercials will again encourage visitors that then turn into future companies and businesses.
What can the state do to support business and economic development?
Be consistent in it’s policy climate. Targeting industries with punitive action is not usually successful; businesses are inclined to move. Better to attract and retain these businesses with a reasonable tax policy, excellent education institutions, quality of life, and growth opportunities are something we can do to create a positive business climate.
What infrastructure is needed to support business development?
Certainly our highway system such as expanding I-25 is essential. I also believe our broadband system, Wi-Fi accesses and improvement to major watersheds and utilities are critical. Reliable infrastructure that is current with modern expectations is essential to support business development.
Exum was elected in 2012 to represent House District 17. He spent 35 years working for the Colorado Springs Fire Department, and retired as a battalion chief.
According to his website, his focus is on jobs and the economy.
“Tony believes in the HIRE Colorado plan, a plan to give Colorado companies the first crack at state contracts so that we can keep our tax dollars and jobs right here in Colorado, instead of shipping them to other states or overseas,” his website said.
He also pledges to fight cuts to public education, hire teachers and reduce class sizes. He is a supporter of the Colorado Health Exchange and supports public safety. His website also says that he supports veterans through job growth and development.
“Tony supports tax breaks for local small businesses that hire returning veterans, and Tony will fight for reduced tuition for our returning as well. Tony will also work to make sure we crack down on predatory lenders who target service members and veterans,” according to his campaign information.
In 2014, he supported bills that would provide a childcare tax credit for state income taxes, sponsored legislation to create a wildfire information and resource center, among others. In 2013, he supported a bill that would require state agencies to consider Colorado companies first for government contracts, legislation that would provide breakfast at Colorado Springs schools that have 80 percent or more of their student population on the free-and-reduced lunch program and wrote a bill that would create better connections between veterans and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.