Jenifer Furda, publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal, will become the chief operating officer at the National Cybersecurity Center, effective Feb. 24.
Furda was named associate publisher of the Business Journal in 2012, when John Weiss purchased the paper from The Dolan Co. She became publisher in 2015, when Weiss announced his semi-retirement.
“Four years ago I convinced Jen to lead our business, military and legal newsweekly divisions,” Weiss said. “It was my most inspired hire ever. She brought fire and focus, joy and compassion, and literally thousands of real friendships to our organization. While we will continue to thrive without her, we miss her already. Big time.”
Before her employment at the CSBJ, Furda worked at the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce for 12 years as the vice president of membership and events.
What attracted her to the COO position?
“It was an opportunity to serve my city, my state — and dare I say it, my nation,” she said. “The NCC has the potential to do great things. The threat from cybercriminals is real, and this effort to fight cybercrime will put the city on a map in a whole new way. It was just too great an opportunity to turn down.”
Still, Furda says she’ll miss the CSBJ.
“I’m so grateful to John Weiss for giving me the opportunity learn an whole new industry. I appreciate the good, fact-finding truth-in-journalism that is the hallmark of the Business Journal. I’ll miss being on the front-lines of journalism, particularly in this day and age, when accurate, fair, balanced reporting is needed more than ever.”
Executive Editor Ralph Routon says Furda was the right person for the job after Colorado Publishing House purchased the CSBJ.
“When our company bought the Business Journal in 2012, we knew how to make the printed product better,” he said. “What we weren’t so sure about was how to go about building new relationships and close ties with the Colorado Springs business community, and how to pull off the kinds of events that could give the CSBJ more local credibility.
“Jen Furda gave us everything we needed and much more, combined with a positive spirit and boundless energy that helped create a new identity for the paper. Without her presence, enthusiasm and determination, there’s no way we would be where we are today. But at least in this case, we can feel better knowing our loss is the community’s huge gain.”
Furda has seen tremendous successes at the Business Journal — increasing readership from 5,000 four years ago to more than 15,000 today. When she became associate publisher, the CSBJ only had two events; today there are more than 12 programs that serve to honor the business community, as well as provide information and access to community leaders. She created the annual Mayors’ Panel, the Fastest-Growing Companies celebration and the Captains of Industry speed mentorship program. She also developed lunches around sports and business leadership and economic drivers.
“I’m extremely proud of the CSBJ programs to honor people and to bring people who are successful into the spotlight,” she said. “I am damn proud of this team — I’d hold the production team up to any in the state. We have the best, most solid editorial team in the state. I think we live up to our mission and vision: to be the premier source and resource of business news in Colorado Springs, to provide fair, balanced business reporting.”
Ed Rios, CEO of the cyber center, says he’s looking forward to the energy and enthusiasm that Furda will bring to the job.
“Obviously, she’s highly motivated and very selfless in terms of her leadership style — and that makes her perfect for a corporate position in a nonprofit that is set up to serve the community,” he said. “She’s one of the top leaders in Colorado Springs, and I’m pleased to be working with her.”
Furda says her goals in the first year involve the potential and opportunities that the NCC provides to the community.
“I’ll work to stand up the three pillars of the NCC — the rapid response, the Cyber Institute and the workforce development piece,” she said, “Clearly, events and programs are my strong point. I’ll work to ensure that the NCC is sustainable; that it’s around for a really long time.”
Rios said Furda’s experiences both at the CSBJ and the chamber make her the right fit for the executive-level position.
“Each of the three pillars requires some day-to-day execution of business strategies to build the efficiencies of the organization,” he said. “Her leadership style and her energy will make that happen. Events and programs are important too, and she brings that experience with her, along with marketing and PR.”
Mayor John Suthers, who was instrumental in bringing the national center to Colorado Springs and in securing state funding for the renovations to the center’s building, says Furda fits in with what the center needs.
“We need someone who knows the community well enough to keep the National Cybersecurity Center ‘centered,’” he said. “Jen is the perfect person for that.”
The part of the center is that is the most established is the Cyber Institute, Suthers said.
“They’ve already had a couple of training programs, and now there are opportunity to follow up,” he said. “Jen has a lot of experience in getting people to events.”
But her responsibilities won’t end there, Suthers said. She’ll step into a new position at a startup that is moving quickly to get all the pieces in place.
“I have to tell you, I’m pleased with the pace of the NCC,” he said. “They are already working on programming; they are co-sponsoring events. I really feel pretty good about it.”
Suthers said the center comes up frequently in his economic development efforts to recruit new business to Colorado Springs.
“People are interested that we’ll have an academic and research arm here,” he said. “It’s really getting their attention. We’re going to be the place for cybersecurity — and it’s happening pretty quickly.”
Currently, the cyber center is funded through private donations, but Suthers says that needs to change to the center to be sustainable in the long-term.
“We’ll need to find ways to monetize the institute,” he said. “We’ll need to monetize the Rapid Response, that will be the easiest. But we also need to monetize workforce development somehow. But of all the things that keep me up at night, the sustainability of the NCC isn’t one of them.”
Furda says she’ll still be involved with boards for the Colorado Springs Leadership Institute, the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado and the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo.
“The best thing is that I get to stay here,” she said. “I get to still be involved with the business community, get to promote and engage the city I love.”