2018: The year for continued progress

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During 2017, the business environment in Colorado Springs saw continued progress and growing optimism for the future.

Business owners watched as three cranes moved into place downtown and started work on long-needed residential housing, the Olympic Museum and a new hotel. In northern El Paso County, developers planned new retail and commercial developments, along with additional residential sites to meet the needs of a burgeoning population.

In the southeast, a host of nonprofit, business and community leaders are working to create a path forward for a long-neglected part of the city.

In the east, rooftops continue to attract retail — and now there’s a healthy mix of chains and independent businesses meeting the needs of residents. And on the Westside, the city’s older neighborhoods are seeing a renaissance.

And in 2018, we hope the economic expansion continues and the city works on remaining issues to create the kind of community in which we all want to live.

Here’s our wish list for 2018.

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• Our region’s high-tech boffins work with elected leaders to establish work-arounds — perhaps our  own broadband network — that protect citizens,  businesses and our high-tech enterprises from the destructive effects of the loss of net neutrality.

• Crews start expanding Interstate 25 from Monument to Castle Rock.

• Affordable housing options grow for working-class Colorado Springs residents.

• The Colorado Springs Utilities Board of Directors decides to change the date to close the downtown, coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant from 2035 to something reasonable, attainable and much sooner, taking advantage of low natural gas prices and dropping costs of alternative energy.

• Workforce initiatives include training and preparing for 21st-century careers in both high-tech fields and in the the trades — and those programs start with middle- and high-school students.

• Those same programs address financial literacy and other issues to make sure today’s youth are prepared to operate independently in the marketplace and workforce.

• The startup ecosystem in Colorado Springs continues to grow, and the new accelerator, Exponential Impact, brings in a new crop of enthusiastic high-tech entrepreneurs and venture capital to support a thriving entrepreneurial class.

• Health care advocates, county leaders and public health leaders focus on the growing threat from opioid addiction in El Paso County and Colorado.

• Work begins on stormwater infrastructure upgrades — and money previously allocated for those projects goes to hire more police officers and firefighters.

• The Environmental Protection Agency drops its lawsuit against the city as Colorado Springs starts addressing stormwater drainage issues.

• Southeast Colorado Springs finally begins to see the effects of the economic recovery.

• The 2018 election season starts — and ends — with productive dialogue, rational discussion of the issues and a noted lack of dark money, derision, name-calling and false allegations.

That last one might be a stretch, but here’s hoping that the local candidates remember that we’re all in this together — and despite our differences, we all want what’s best for the Pikes Peak region.

The new year won’t magically remove the challenges the Pikes Peak region faces, and a healthy and growing economy brings issues of its own. Let’s start to solve those problem in 2018.