When Yemi Mobolade moved to Colorado Springs eight years ago, the narrative he’d hear about his new city wasn’t always positive.
“I’ve been told that we were our own worst enemy when it came to storytelling,” he said.
Fast-forward nearly a decade and those tales have substantially changed.
Mobolade is heavily involved in crafting the city’s new narrative both as an entrepreneur and small business owner, as well as vice president, business retention & expansion with the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC. He, along with business partner Russ Ware (Wild Goose Meeting House, Good Neighbors Meeting House), will moderate panel discussions with leaders in their fields at the Downtown Partnership’s next installment of its City Center Series beginning at 6 p.m. Feb. 13.
“I think this approach to the series is about celebrating our own internal successes as a city,” Mobolade said. “It’s great to invite other speakers and hear what they’re doing in their cities, but there are great things happening here, and now we get to tell the story.”
‘Some interesting metrics’
While series events have previously involved community-builders from outside Colorado discussing the positive transformations of their hometowns, this installment will explore similar themes with a group of local businesspeople from three specific industries.
“We’ll be highlighting our culinary and distilling culture, our coffee culture and our tech and design cultures,” said Claire Swinford, the partnership’s urban engagement manager. She said the idea to utilize local presenters at this month’s City Center event came from attendee feedback and, in part, due to the deluge of national recognitions the city received during the past year.
The set of “four lightning interviews zeroes in on the people, companies and attributes that have won Colorado Springs growing national acclaim,” according to the Downtown Partnership. Panel members will include: Abigail Baum of Loyal Coffee; Ryan Lloyd of Echo Architecture; Chef Brother Luck of IV by Brother Luck; Michael Myers of Distillery 291; Don Niemyer of Story Coffee; Dustin Sapp of Formstack; and Conor McCluskey of BombBomb.
“During our initial brainstorming we came up with ideas about how Colorado Springs is seeing a perception change in the national spotlight and about how local people are doing amazing things that are garnering attention on the national scale,” Swinford said. “The city is starting to show up in some interesting metrics.”
While past City Center programs have spotlighted blossoming communities around the world, Colorado Springs, some say, has proven it’s ready for a spotlight of its own.
“Our story includes anything from our complete downtown renaissance to how we are caring for local businesses to workforce development and quality-of-life improvements,” Mobolade said. “Even in the nonprofit and faith-based arenas, I think the story is the same.”
And it’s all thanks to the power of collective impact, he said.
“It’s when the right stakeholders come together around the table and bring their best aspects forward for the greater good of the community or a project,” Mobolade said. “The people Russ and I get to interview [at the program] are all entrepreneurs; they’ve all done something great. But we’ve found out there’s a ‘why.’ There’s something deeper — they love this community and they are trying to improve it and make it home. That’s the reason Russ and I did what we did. We started a business and that helps us, but it’s also a means to a greater end and it puts our city on the national map.”
In its fourth year, the goal of the City Center Series, according to Swinford, “was to inject new ideas into conversation about how the city gets built. We wanted citizens to have the tools to talk about these issues effectively and to advocate for innovative solutions.”
The ideas generated over the past four years “are resonating with people,” she said, “and they feel empowered to share what they want to happen in this city.”