Editor’s note: This is the final installment in a two-part series with nine local stakeholders discussing their industries and how they’re preparing for the next economic downturn.
With all the new businesses and rooftops sprouting up in Colorado Springs, it may be hard for some to imagine another recession could be around the corner.
However, a slowdown in the national economy appears imminent, according to some local economists, who are considering the fact that it’s been a decade since the nation last fell into a recession.
The Business Journal spoke with industry leaders in the Pikes Peak region about what went right in 2018, what’s in store for this year and how they are preparing for the challenges of 2019.
Public relations and marketing
Heather Kelly, CEO of SSPR
What’s something exciting that happened in public relations and marketing in 2018?
The tech scene here is booming. Colorado Springs just made the top-20 list of tech towns in the U.S. [by the Computing Technology Industry Association]. With that kind of growth comes a need for these local companies to prioritize PR and marketing. In the last year, my team has worked with some of the most innovative local companies around.
What excites you about your industry in 2019?
The growth we’ve seen in Colorado Springs over the past year, while amazing, can also be daunting for businesses that are new to the market. We’re going to see an increased demand for crisis communications and brand reputation management services as these companies scale and grow. Preparation is key here, and I’m excited to help these companies successfully build their brands in 2019.
What’s a challenge facing the local public relations and marketing industry in 2019?
With “fake news” being a hot phrase over the past year, we’re seeing a loss of media trust like never before. The public is rightfully skeptical of many news outlets and reporters. It’s our job as PR and marketing professionals to know where outlets fall on the trust scale and advise our clients accordingly.
What advice can you offer other leaders in the public relations and marketing industry?
The #MeToo dialogue opened doors in 2018, and I don’t see this movement retreating in 2019 (rightfully so). We need to be prepared to advise our clients appropriately. Be ready to have some real talk with clients before a crisis happens. Talk to them about potential risks and work together on a strategic plan.
How are you preparing for the next economic downturn?
Every single team member in our company is responsible for maintaining revenue and bringing in new business. But we find ways to make it fun. Our team has the freedom to build relationships with any company they want to work with. If you’re finding new business opportunities within your passion areas, you’re, in turn, more passionate about growing our business.
Chuck Prow, president and CEO of Vectrus
What’s something exciting that happened in the defense and military industries in 2018?
As the largest publicly traded defense contractor headquartered in Colorado Springs, [Vectrus] completed our first acquisition of a company, SENTEL Corporation, in January 2018 and incorporated their expertise in logistics, IT and technology solutions as well as new clients in the defense, intelligence and federal civilian space.
What’s something that excites you about the defense industry and the military this year?
We are encouraged by the stability and growth associated with the U.S. defense budgets. For example, fiscal year 2019 represents the first time in more than a decade that the Department of Defense started the year with an enacted appropriation instead of operating under a continuing resolution. We believe this stability and growth will equate to more opportunity for Colorado Springs-based defense companies to provide their services to the government and to continue to grow. This growth also means more jobs for the highly skilled workforce in Colorado Springs, including military service members, veterans, and technology and engineering experts.
What’s a challenge facing the defense industry and the military in 2019?
The federal facilities and logistics markets are under significant pressure to transform and deliver much better outcomes at dramatically lower costs. As a company focused on facilities, logistics and technology for our defense clients, we see opportunities to use technology to help improve the facilities and logistics industry in 2019. We are actively working on solutions to deliver smart resilient bases, facilities, infrastructures and IT networks. For example, we see the demand for IT services in the logistics industry increasing as the implementation of big data will make supply chains safer globally. We expect that big data will continue to transform supply chains by allowing instant communication between importers, exporters and suppliers to automate tasks and minimize human error.
Overall, we have an opportunity, with our clients, to be a leader in this transformation through innovation.
How are you preparing for the next economic downturn?
Our growth strategy for next year and beyond is heavily focused on infusing technology into our existing programs and adding a new level of innovation in order to reduce costs and improve client outcomes. More broadly, we have a strategic plan and goal to transform Vectrus into a more diverse, more capable and higher value platform with $2.5 billion in revenue by 2023. We plan to achieve this while continuing to provide world-class facilities, logistics, supply chain, IT, engineering and intelligence mission support services to our clients in the U.S. and across the globe.
Greg Phillips, director of aviation for the Colorado Springs Airport
What’s something exciting that happened in aerospace in 2018?
Congressional designation of the [National Museum of World War II Aviation] is an honor our community should be proud of. Also, the induction of Richard Janitell into the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame for his career-long dedication to aviation in Colorado Springs brings statewide recognition to a great aviator.
What’s something you are excited about for the local aerospace industry next year?
COS’ continued efforts to add air service and growth in the Peak Innovation Business Park, adding to COS’ economic engine and keeping costs low for air carriers.
What’s a challenge facing the aerospace industry in 2019?
There is an ongoing pilot shortage that is affecting commercial service across the United States, as well as a growing shortage of aircraft mechanics and other trades. While there are efforts to address these shortages in the long term, there will be continued effects in the coming year.
What advice do you have for other leaders in the aerospace industry?
To others, I say keep an eye on Colorado Springs because we’re going places! On an otherwise serious note, my hope is that airports across Colorado can work together to ensure stable federal funding for infrastructure development to ensure we continue to provide an airport our community can be proud of.
How are you helping prepare the airport for the next economic downturn?
COS just paid off its final municipal bond this month. This repayment leaves the airport no outstanding debt aside from two outstanding loans, and adds to our ability to weather the storms of economic uncertainty.
Joel Yuhas, president and CEO of UCHealth Memorial Health System
What’s something exciting that happened in health care in 2018?
Up until 2018, Colorado Springs and all of southern Colorado lacked a Level I trauma center and comprehensive stroke center capabilities. This meant that people with the most complex trauma-related injuries would be flown over Colorado Springs to Denver for advanced trauma care. When UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central received a Level I Trauma designation by the state last spring, all of southern Colorado benefited. Residents now have around-the-clock access to the most advanced trauma care with a level of sophistication that previously did not exist. This advanced trauma care close to home is saving lives. Becoming a Level I adult trauma center took years of planning and investment. It was a promise UCHealth made to the community years ago, and it is an investment that will serve our community for years to come.
Similarly, UCHealth Memorial became southern Colorado’s first designated comprehensive stroke center in 2018. This means that there is no occasion where patients who suffer either ischemic [blood clot in the brain] or hemorrhagic [active bleeding in the brain] strokes should be moved to Denver for treatment. UCHealth Memorial’s comprehensive stroke center designation has enabled the hospital to partner with other health systems inside and outside of our community to support their programs and prevent stroke victims from experiencing delays in care. Again, this advanced care close to home is saving lives.
What’s something that excites you about health care in Colorado Springs?
Meaningful, collaborative investments have been made between the health care industry and area community colleges and universities to address the critical workforce shortages facing Colorado Springs, which continues to grow faster than any other Colorado community.
These partnerships will particularly improve nurse and paramedic hiring challenges by generating additional graduates in these areas. Dr. Lance Bolton, Pikes Peak Community College president, announced expansions of both nursing and paramedic training programs in 2018 in collaboration with UCHealth.
Additional faculty have been hired, assisted in part by a grant from the UCHealth Memorial Foundation, to address the more than 1,000 open registered nurse vacancies in El Paso County, as well as to expand the paramedic training program to address the workforce challenges within the Colorado Springs Fire Department and area emergency departments.
Similarly, in a unique partnership between UCHealth Memorial and UCCS, Chancellor Venkat Reddy announced an expansion of the [Bachelor of Science in Nursing] program.
The graduates of this new program will help reduce the number of open positions in the community that require a BSN degree.
What’s a challenge facing health care in 2019?
Continued workforce challenges in our growing community will be a theme in 2019 while investments between UCHealth and PPCC/UCCS mature. The demand for access to primary care — there is a deficit of primary care providers locally — is also a continuing theme.
What advice do you have for other leaders in the health care industry?
The rising cost of health care continues to be a theme front and center both in Colorado and at a national level. Organizations like UCHealth are taking a leading role in improving price transparency through online price estimate tools and improving access to lower-cost care delivery models, including virtual visits, online scheduling for primary and specialty care, and urgent care facilities to offer consumers greater choice and convenience at lower cost than a hospital environment. UCHealth will continue to partner with other health care providers and insurers to improve access to care, improve quality and reduce health care costs. Being open to exploring collaborative partnerships among health care providers, technology providers and insurers presents future opportunities for health care leaders to consider.
How are you preparing for the next economic downturn?
Expanding lower-cost access points, creating more innovative care options for consumers to consider and maintaining effective cost-efficient operations are all opportunities that UCHealth has embraced. Technological innovations are also helping us improve efficiency, quality and safety.