Whether it’s an arts alliance or a start-up company, the developing technology industry is an area most businesses should start paying attention to, and Colorado Springs and Pueblo are not exempt.
To help businesses share technology advancements and kickstart conversations surrounding tech, the Colorado Governor’s Office proclaimed the week of July 31 to Aug. 4 as Colorado Tech Week. To launch the week, the Colorado Technology Association, a Denver-based nonprofit, hosted the third annual Colorado Tech Tour, spanning five regions in five days.
CTA partnered with Catalyst Campus and the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC and made its first stop at Catalyst Campus on July 31 for a panel discussion. Afterward CTA took a hard-hat tour of the burgeoning National Cybersecurity Center, which will be located at 3650 N. Nevada Ave.
CTA also partnered with the city of Pueblo and Colorado State University-Pueblo to host a rapid-fire pitch night at the university, also on July 31.
The tour aimed to provide a platform for participating businesses to share technology stories and network, said Andrea Young, CEO of CTA.
“I think that tech is an equalizing factor and it’s something that’s in every business and every industry. We can’t even really look at tech as an industry; we look at it as a capability,” she said.
Young said it is important for all businesses to be aware of and have expertise in areas of technology such as computer science, data science and cyberspace, among others. The Colorado Tech Tour can help with this, she said.
“Colorado has a lot of business capabilities and I don’t think that story gets told enough,” Young said. “I think it’s really important we’re able to keep getting those stories on the map. Hopefully that will lead to attracting capital; hopefully that will lead to attracting talent.”
Promoting innovation and technology across the state is a responsibility that CTA takes very seriously, said Kelly Underell, executive director for the Colorado Technology Foundation.
“The companies don’t always have time to promote themselves or their resources, and we have this amazing statewide-and-beyond network to share these stories with,” Underell said. “So hopefully it’s attracting more businesses, better talent and more capital to places beyond the Denver metro area.”
The state also has one of the fastest-growing economies in the U.S., said Young.
“I would say that Colorado, in terms of growth year after year, is definitely up there in terms of tech. … In every business today there’s the technology component and cybersecurity is a topic — moving it from the server room to the boardroom and being able to educate based on risk [is important], because most everything happens through software or cyberspace.”
The Colorado Springs stop
Colorado Springs has been one of the tour stops every year for Colorado Tech Week.
CTA, the Chamber & EDC and Catalyst Campus hosted a discussion with four panelists who spoke about talent and growth regarding Colorado Springs technology and business.
Guest speakers for the panel included Michelle Anderson, intellectual property manager for Zwipe; Patty Bonvallet, technology development manager for Boecore, Inc.; Greg Bush, senior facilities specialist for SAP America; and Chris Franz, chief development officer for Exponential Impact.
Ingrid Richter, executive director of Catalyst Campus, moderated the panel.
Hannah Parsons, chief economic development officer for the Chamber & EDC, said CTA travels through Colorado Springs to showcase the city’s variety of technology and innovation.
She added that Colorado Springs also happens to be the second-largest city in the state, with a metropolitan population of around 700,000 people.
It’s a city that would be hard not to include in a tech tour, she said.
“I think CTA generally wants to showcase a variety of technology through the state, so it’s been fun to work with them because every time they come through on a tour they try to highlight things that maybe people don’t know too much about. It’s been nice because the tech community in Colorado Springs is very different than that in Denver,” Parsons said.
Parsons said one issue for Colorado Springs is recruiting and retaining talent, an area her economic development team specializes in to help local businesses grow.
“It’s very important to the tech community to be able to attract and retain talent. So CTA … always tries to help communities and businesses identify ways to make sure they have plenty of talent for their company.”
Bonvallet shared her success in recruiting and keeping talent in the cybersecurity industry.
She said businesses need younger people to be excited about technology in order to retain employees.
“The most senior guys have these great ideas, and they know where the gaps are and where we need capability, but you need the younger folks to get excited so they can come in and do the work,” she said.
Inaugural Pueblo tour
The Tech Tour’s July 31 pitch night at CSU-Pueblo was its first visit to Pueblo. Some pitches revolved around technology in education, transportation, software, the arts and the Pueblo City-County Library.
Cora Zaletel, executive director of external affairs at CSU-Pueblo, said one of her colleagues wanted to start conversations in technology, but lacked a network.
“I think they’d hoped that this would kind of start that conversation and help them with their goal of having regular trainings or networking,” Zaletel said. “My goal was to get the Colorado Tech Association to see what Pueblo was doing, but I think it also benefited Pueblo knowing what other people are doing in town.”
The pitch by RB Wiley, senior principal investigator of engineering services at Pueblo’s Transportation Technology Center, Inc., showed videos of improved safety designs for light rail passenger cars.
Wiley also spoke on the benefits of using remotely collected condition data to improve safety of railcars while saving money.
Zaletel added that Pueblo is collaborative and said Colorado will benefit from working with Pueblo and other cities.
“In higher ed, our goal is to produce new knowledge,” she said. “Hopefully through that network we can produce some new knowledge that others can use.”