Her surname, identifying properties aside, now seems somewhat prophetic.
AJ West heeded the directional advice embedded in that name and, along with husband, Jason Hosch, made her way from Austin, Texas, to Colorado Springs nearly a year ago.
West does branding and communications for a local engineering and architectural firm, CP&Y. The company began in Dallas in 1980 and since has grown to 17 locations in four states.
“Colorado is our next biggest growth market that we’re focused on,” West said of expanding outside the Lone Star State.
The company recently merged with locally based Meeting the Challenge, an accessibility compliance consulting firm, and West is focused on continuing to grow CP&Y’s presence in the Springs, a city she’s quickly made her home. The Illinois native spoke with the Business Journal this week about CP&Y and why Austin should be jealous of Colorado Springs.
How did you get to the Springs?
I’m from Chicago but moved to Orlando where I went to school at the University of Central Florida and got my degree in communications. I moved to Austin seven years ago and started working at CP&Y. It was a really great opportunity for me career wise.
The CP&Y office has been in Colorado Springs for about five years, and I asked to come here. There was a tiny office here and I knew I could help grow it. It made sense to have a corporate employee out here to help with culture and recruit for this office.
When I started with CP&Y five years ago, which is about when the Springs office opened, it was in its early stages of growth. There were probably 100 employees. We’ve grown so much in the last five years. Now we’re at 350 people.
Talk about CP&Y.
We do a lot of work for the city, Colorado Springs Utilities and [the Colorado Department of Transportation]. We just finished the design and are now starting construction at Academy Boulevard and Cottonwood Creek Bridge. We’ve done drop structures for CSU and are now on a $5 million on-call CDOT Front Range contract to provide any projects they need. They can pick us from a pool of contracts to do alleyways or curb and gutters … and we will do that for the next five years.
Recently we merged with Meeting the Challenge to add an [Americans with Disabilities Act] service component to our civil engineering and architecture projects.
What’s your role here?
I primarily focus on branding and communications. I’m within the marketing group and there are only about seven of us for the whole company. Mostly my time is focused on helping other companies integrate as well as our communication and social media — anything and everything that comes through branding and communications.
Why did you leave Austin?
Austin got really crowded and overgrown and really expensive. People think Colorado Springs is expensive — it’s really not!
It’s so much cheaper for me to live here, and we had an office we needed to grow out here. It totally made sense. The stars aligned. My husband and I would vacation here every summer. After the third year I was like, ‘We like it here so much, why don’t we just move here so we can vacation somewhere else?’
It’s awesome! The city is so different for me and I love it! You can go out downtown and go to dinner, pull right up to the restaurant and it’s not a 4-hour wait like in Austin. … When I moved to Austin it was laid back and cool and I really enjoyed it. But even in the seven years I lived there, it just exploded and completely changed. Old haunts are being torn down and it has overdeveloped. That’s a huge turnoff.
What’s been the hardest change?
The barbecue. We didn’t realize how spoiled we were. We came to town and ate at seven different places. At the last one, my husband, Jason, said, ‘That’s it, when we leave here we’re going to Home Depot and we’re buying a smoker.’ We went [to the grocery store] and bought ribs and chicken — every kind of meat and it was just the two of us. I had the meat sweats the first weekend we had the smoker.