The American West. What do those words evoke? The last frontier? Wide open spaces (with “room to make big mistakes,” as the Dixie Chicks so memorably put it)? Outdoors in the mountains, skiing, fishing, hiking, climbing, trail running? Or maybe opportunity? New subdivisions sprouting on barren tracts of prairie? Jobs, businesses, entrepreneurs? A great place to work, play, raise your kids, enjoy the good life?
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These folks have ruled their markets for decades — for more than a century, by some accounts. The product they sell is in many ways indistinguishable from similar products marketed by hundreds, even thousands, of competitors. But, by restricting access to their products and by sophisticated pricing strategies, they’ve created an enormous demand reservoir.
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We all know this particular story — globalization, the world is flat, everything has changed, the new paradigm, fast-cycle technology — whatever you want to call it. The details might be complex, but the story’s simple. If you have a job, own a business or participate in any way in the economy (this means everybody but a few Ted Kaczynskis out in the woods, as long as they don’t need supplies for letter bombs), you’d best be paying attention.
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You’d think we’d be drowning in lavishly funded projects of dubious national benefit, wouldn’t you? After all, we’re a staunchly Republican city, represented for more than 20 years by a Republican congressman, with at least one, and often two, Republican senators from Colorado.
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With an eloquence foreign to modern Americans, poetic, inspirational and deeply moving, MacArthur recalls the sacrifices of generations past, and calls upon his listeners to live by the noble principles for which so many had given their lives.
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Growing up in Colorado Springs in the 1950s, I dated a girl named Nancy Shoup. Nancy’s dad, Merrill Shoup, the son of Gov. Oliver Shoup, was one of our small city’s leading businessmen. CEO and chairman of the Holly Sugar Corp., he served on half-a-dozen boards and was an ardent conservative, at a time when “conservative wasn’t cool.” Mr. Shoup, who was fond of my parents and grandparents, took it upon himself to teach me about business, fearing that I’d become dangerously liberal.
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For sheer weirdness, it’s hard to imagine a Colorado political season as wacky as this one. Consider the following: The GOP nominated a respected, amiable two-term congressman, Bob Beauprez, as their gubernatorial candidate. Nothing in Beauprez’ history suggested that he’d be anything other than a competent contender. In fact, just a few months ago, the Democrats were in despair because popular Denver mayor, John Hickenlooper, had declined to run, ceding the nomination by default to the little-known Denver district attorney, Bill Ritter.
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Let us consider the delicious absurdity of the ongoing saga of … Tejon Street striping! In case you’ve missed it, let me bring you up to date. El Paso County, for reasons best known only to our august county commissioners, ripped down an unprepossessing office building on South Tejon and erected a parking garage on the site. Upon completion, the city re-striped the formerly four-lane street to two-lanes, and added bicycle lanes.
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“The kudos keep on coming!” Such was the subscript of a giddy, triumphal e-mail from Dave White at the Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp., giving your columnist (and hundreds of other recipients) the good news — Forbes magazine had just ranked Colorado fifth in business climate. Coming on the heels of Money magazine’s No. 1 ranking of our fair city, that’s great news for the EDC folks.
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All through the 1990s, the Colorado Springs economy boomed, as did Denver’s, as did the nation’s. But, like a man starving in the midst of plenty, city government couldn’t benefit from the boom — the Bruce amendments simply deprived it of the resources needed to cope with growth. Urgently needed reconstructive work was postponed, and decaying infrastructure was patched, rather than replaced.
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“I’ll tell you, Rivera’s the big loser here … Tomorrow morning, the sharks are gonna be circling — (Jerry) Heimlicher, (Larry) Small, (Scott) Hente; any one of ’em could beat him next April. He shoulda stayed out of the race.” -Seasoned Political Observer
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Wandering through downtown the other day, I was struck by the strange disconnect between what our businessmen, politicians and downtown promoters say as opposed to what they actually do. What they say: we want a vibrant, vital, robust (see how well I’ve absorbed their buzzwords) downtown, with a stimulating mix of retail, restaurants and bars, residences, offices, art galleries, theaters, restored historic buildings … a festive mix of everything that anyone might want. And what do we have?
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