Colorado Springs is on the verge of “something great.” That’s what you hear all over the city, and not just from politicians and developers. Everyone seems to feel the new energy engulfing the city as we grow and diversify our business base.

Well, almost everyone.

There’s a part of the city that’s been left out of the dialogue, ignored by business owners seeking to expand, by many politicians and by most developers. It’s Southeast Colorado Springs, one of the most diverse, culturally rich sections of our city — but also one of the areas with the most challenges.

Consider the Southeast, loosely defined as ZIP codes 80916 and 80910. In 80910, the population is 36.1 percent Hispanic, 13 percent black, 4 percent Asian. In 80916, the population is even more diverse.

It’s a place where 25 percent of the population lives in poverty, and fewer than half the residents own their home. About 75 percent of the K-12 students qualify for a free or reduced-cost lunch program.

And there’s been a lot of talk about Southeast Colorado Springs, all around the city — especially since the state legislature promised a multi-million-dollar grant to help improve the area.

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But people who live and work in those ZIP codes are doing almost all the heavy lifting. We need action and assistance from all of El Paso County.

The Colorado Springs Business Journal, the Colorado Springs Independent and the new Southeast Express are pitching in to do our part to create jobs and spur economic development.

How?

Through our second ever Southeast Business Plan Competition, and we have more than 15 applications from local entrepreneurs eager to launch a business in the Southeast. We have a long list of local experts to help launch the new enterprise in style.  It’s sort of a business-in-a-box: pro bono help from IT experts, graphic designers, website developers, attorneys, public relations experts and Realtors as well as free advertisements through Colorado Publishing House to reach our 200,000 readers. We’ll announce the winners, selected by a panel of outside business leaders and Southeast advocates, at a special event April 25.

And that’s where the rest of the business community comes in. We need your help.

We really want to provide a cash award along with the rest of the package, and we want to celebrate the winner in style at a luncheon at Hotel Eleganté. We’re also celebrating diversity with the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum’s awards for business, and we’ve created an expo featuring some of the existing companies in the Southeast sector.

We’re asking for business sponsors for the event. In exchange for sponsorships, we’ll provide advertising and speaking opportunities. We’ll help brand your company as one that cares about the city in its entirety.

So help us as we help a local business grow in Southeast. In the end, we’ll all be winners.