It’s the dawn of a new year, and the Martin Drake Power Plant is still billowing pollutants over downtown from its aged “cloud machine.”
We still don’t have a solution to the Environmental Protection Agency’s lawsuit against the city for failing — for years — to meet our clean water and stormwater infrastructure obligations.
Citywide recycling is still a dream, and creating more infill and less sprawl is just something other cities do.
There’s a project to widen Interstate 25 from Monument to Castle Rock, but no plan to improve or increase public transportation.
So while 2018 was a great year for Colorado Springs, here is our wish list for things that will benefit the business community and economic development in 2019:
1. Better roads and better transportation. While we are widening Interstate 25 to make it easier to commute to the state’s capital, and we’re busily filling potholes, thanks to funding from citywide sales taxes, Colorado Springs badly needs multimodal transportation solutions. We need more buses, going more places people need to be. We need more bike lanes (not fewer) and more connections to existing lanes. We need to explore alternative (yet feasible) means of transit, whether that’s a train system or “hyperloop” to connect with other parts of the state and the nation.
2. Better wages. Businesses in Colorado Springs have made some progress in improving wages. Mayor John Suthers says average wages are higher than they’ve ever been — but so are the costs of housing, food, cars and a host of other expenses workers must pay. There are college loans to consider, payments for cars and homes and medical care. If we want to make this a world-class city, we need to grow wages so people can easily afford to live here.
3. Close the power plant, and before 2035. Martin Drake is an eyesore and a health hazard. It’s time to close the coal-fired power plant, join the rest of the nation in finding alternative, sustainable energy and free up space for a better downtown. As the Olympic Museum readies for its grand opening, city council needs to find a solution for Drake — and sooner, not later. And the business community needs to push them to make the decision. Businesses can help find innovative ways to mitigate the land’s environmental damage and creative ways to redevelop the site.
4. Recycling and sustainability need to become high priorities. Despite our state’s natural beauty, most people in Colorado don’t recycle or use sustainable business practices. It doesn’t make sense, because sustainability is proven to save money. Small businesses shouldn’t be exempt from taking steps to make sure the city is engaging in sustainable practices.
5. Affordable housing. While some people blame the rise in homelessness on legalized marijuana, the truth is: Housing is expensive in Colorado Springs, and getting even more expensive. That’s good news for landlords, but companies won’t move here if workers can’t find housing at affordable prices. Recent figures show Colorado is quickly becoming one of the most expensive places to live in the nation. We can’t sustain economic progress without housing that fits every income level.
6. More support for entrepreneurs. It seems that people with financial means only invest in land — and the Springs needs angel investors and venture capitalists to grow its economic base. Startups are the lifeblood of the national economy — and we need to make sure that brilliant people creating new products have the financial backing needed to stay in Colorado Springs and grow their businesses.
So, you have our list. Share yours. Send us your 2019 citywide wish list. What would you like to see happen in 2019? Email us your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.