The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance announced today that a statewide health insurance marketplace will create a customer service office in Colorado Springs, adding about 100 jobs and occupying about 25,000 square feet of space.
Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s health care exchange as required by the Affordable Care Act, will set up shop this summer in Colorado Springs in preparation for giving assistance to people via telephone. The exchange operates online.
With little fanfare, the Business Alliance issued this press release:
"The new Customer Service Center will be a significant part of our network of support for individuals, families and small businesses in Colorado," said Patty Fontneau, ED/CEO of Connect for Health Colorado. "We are excited to support the Colorado Springs economy and to partner with Colorado Springs businesses and organizations to reach our mission of increasing access, affordability and choice for individuals and small employers looking for health insurance in Colorado."
Starting in October, Connect for Health Colorado will serve individuals, families and small employers who are looking for health insurance and will provide access to up-front financial assistance to eligible consumers to reduce costs. Customers will shop through a website and get expert help in person and over the phone from a network of customer service professionals, including Customer Service Center Representatives, Health Coverage Guides and certified health insurance agents and brokers. The marketplace is a public, non-profit entity that was established by Senate Bill 11-200, passed by the General Assembly in 2011. More information is available at www.connectforhealthco.com.
In addition to the phone support provided by the Colorado Springs site, several area organizations will provide in-person assistance to customers as part of a new program called the Connect for Health Colorado Assistance Network. Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments and Peak Vista Community Health Centers in Colorado Springs, Tri-Lakes Cares in Monument, and the Healthy Communities initiative at Memorial Hospital will serve as Assistance Sites for individuals, families and small employers in the region. These organizations will conduct outreach in late summer to educate residents about the new marketplace and will deploy Health Coverage Guides to provide in-person assistance in October.
The Customer Service Center site was chosen after a statewide evaluation of 31 sites, including 21 site visits across the state. The evaluation considered cost, age and condition of the buildings, access to mass transit, a strong labor pool and services, opportunity for expansion and safety. The site in central Colorado Springs met all requirements and provided excellent value and flexibility.
"We are delighted that Colorado Springs has been selected as the location for this important center which will be supporting and serving citizens all across the state of Colorado for their health benefit needs," said Joe Raso, President and CEO of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance. "Colorado Springs is recognized as a hub for customer support and back office operations for key corporate employers, and our region's intensified focus on the healthcare industry makes this center a perfect fit for our community."
The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, the leading business development organization in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region, has worked with the Connect for Health Colorado team on the project since late 2012 and will continue to assist them as they transition into the community with expedited permitting, identifying training funds available for employees, addressing workforce needs, etc.
Information about how to apply for jobs for the Customer Service Center will be available here by June 17, 2013.
We received a message sent to an open-space supporter by an Ultra Petroleum vice president, Doug Selvius, who provided the following points to clarify the company's position:
- Ultra is not actively trying to sell the ranch
- We are not soliciting offers for the ranch
- Ultra has not retained a broker and has no immediate plans to do so
- We have received a lot of interest and inquiries about our selling the ranch
- We will entertain offers that are submitted to us — preferably for the entire ranch
- To warrant consideration, such offers will need to afford us a decent profit on our $20 million investment
—————————————POSTED THURSDAY, JUNE 6, 3:13 P.M.———————————————
This just in from Kelly Whitely, Ultra Petroleum's director of investor relations:
At this time, Ultra hasn't made a formal decision to sell the Banning Lewis Ranch. As you recall, earlier this year we suspended our exploration efforts in El Paso County since they were unsuccessful. However, another exploration company recently initiated exploration drilling in northeastern El Paso County. We will be interested to learn what transpires from their exploratory drilling efforts. We have started to receive inquiries from interested buyers and are open to looking at reasonable offers in whole or in part. But at the end of the day, we really haven't made the decision to sell the Banning Lewis Ranch.
———POSTED THURS., JUNE 6, 12:39 P.M.———
Ultra Petroleum, a Canadian company based in Houston, isn't wasting any time off-loading an albatross from its portfolio, now that test drilling near the Banning Lewis Ranch property has showed oil and gas reserves there aren't commercial viable.
Tom Wilson, a company representative, told Diana May, El Paso County's local government designee in oil and gas matters, that Ultra will sell the 18,500 acres it bought in spring 2011.
Ultra had hoped the Niobrara shale, a productive play that underlies a good part of northern Colorado, would reach its property on the east side of Colorado Springs. But testing shows that it peters out here. Hilcorp Energy Corp., also of Houston, recently came up empty in its testing as well, May has said.
May says via e-mail that when she asked Ultra's Wilson about the sale, he replied, "Yes, it's up for sale in whole or parts." But it's not listed yet, he told her.
This should tickle some people pink, notably developers and open-space advocates.
Mayor Steve Bach, who in his previous life was a commercial real estate broker, may be salivating over that property. He's expressed interest in the city being a player of some kind, but, hasn't shared his thoughts directly with the public.
Meantime, we've asked the city what will become of the lawsuit in which the city was embroiled with Ultra over the annexation agreement for the property. The city hired Hogan Lovells law firm to work on the bankruptcy case, agreeing to pay up to $250,000.
We've asked the city if the case now will be dismissed, and how much has been spent to date. If and when we hear anything, we'll circle back.
For the second time this year, an oil exploration company has bagged efforts in El Paso County. Hilcorp Energy Company of Houston told the county's local government designee Diana May it's pulling out of the area.
Now Hilcorp has made the same discovery, or non-discovery, perhaps.
May says a Hilcorp official said the company "won't be drilling the State well," she says, "and they would not be doing any additional business or drilling here in El Paso County."
"I took from that, logically, their results from the Myers well must not have been promising," she says, quickly adding, "but they didn't tell me that."
One other well is in the process of being permitted in El Paso County, which the NexGen Oil and Gas company plans to drill. It's located in the far northeast portion of the county, next door to Lincoln County.
"We were very aware that the drilling by Ultra and Hilcorp were exploratory wells, so we weren't shocked by the fact that Ultra isn't drilling any further," she says. Ultra performed hydraulic fracturing on its Olive Oyl well, she says.
An oil and gas meeting is slated for 2 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave.
After surveying 7,766 small businesses across the country, an online hiring agency is calling Colorado Springs one of the best cities for small businesses.
Thumbtack looked at a dozen metrics before putting the Springs in its No. 4 spot. That may come as a surprise, given that the Springs has seen many longtime businesses, like Steaksmith, close in recent years. Makes you wonder if we're really the best place for small business, or if we just have a lot of really upbeat shop owners.
Guess it can't hurt either way. Read on:
The Thumbtack.com Small Business Friendliness Survey is the only survey to obtain data from an extensive, nationwide universe of job creators and entrepreneurs in order to determine the most business-friendly locations. While there are various “business climate rankings” that rate locations as good or bad for business, there are no others that draw upon considerable data from small business owners themselves.
“For the second year in a row, Colorado Springs small businesses rated the city among the best in the nation,” said Sander Daniels, co-founder of Thumbtack.com. “The Colorado Spring's clear and consistent approach to regulations and its helpful small business resources help local entrepreneurs view the city as a partner rather than an obstacle.”
Some of the key findings for Colorado Springs — and Colorado generally — include:
• Colorado Springs earned an 'A+' for its overall small business friendliness, improving from last year's 'A' grade. Denver also rose in the rankings, earning an 'A-', up from a 'B+' in 2012.
• The city ranked very well in nearly every category, including a pair of 'A+' grades for the ease of hiring additional employees in the city and for its environmental regulations.
• In addition to an 'A' grade overall, Colorado earned an 'A' for the quality and availability of its training and networking programs. The state also ranked in the top 10 for its online business resources.
• Nationally, professional licensing requirements were more important to small business owners than taxes in determining a state’s overall business-friendliness, confirming the findings from last year’s study.
• African-American and Hispanic small business owners were more likely than their white counterparts to encourage others to start a new business.
The top ranking cities overall were Austin, Virginia Beach-Norfolk, Houston, Colorado Springs and San Antonio. The lowest rated were Los Angeles, San Diego, Cincinnati, Sacramento and, in last place, Newark, NJ.
One of the few categories where Colorado Springs did not improve was in the ease of starting a new business: the city earned an 'A-', down from a 'A+' in 2013.
“It is critical to the economic health of every city and state to create an entrepreneur-friendly environment,” said Dane Stangler, director of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation. “Policymakers put themselves in the best position to encourage sustainable growth and long-term prosperity by listening to the voices of small business owners themselves.”
Tonight, folks at the Broadmoor will lay out their plans for millions of dollars in improvements to the resort, in addition to the closing of a well-established route through that part of the city, Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard.
The meeting, by invitation at Broadmoor Hall, is expected to draw a good number of the 1,700 neighbors who were invited. And some of them are likely to criticize those road-closure plans, as indicated by this petition, with its 57 signatures and counting.
Here are a few comments from the petition:
We appreciate all that the Broadmoor does for our community...but closing this major access road would be a disaster! PLEASE reconsider!!!
I am a huge fan of Mr. Bartolin and Mr. Anschutz and grateful to all they do for the community. I can't think of one thing the Broadmoor has wanted to do that I was opposed to. This has huge risk (safety, congestion) for limited upside and so I oppose it.
Any of our elected persons who support this should be subject to recall immediately. Sometimes even the wealthy have to accept being told "what self serving profiteer thought of this insane and dangerous scheme!"
Against closing west Cheyenne Blvd. We have a home in the Old Stage Summer Home Group, and that is our major exit in case of fire.
Recent presentations by CSFD officials said "it isn't IF a fire occurs, it is WHEN it will occur". I hope our local elected and appointed officials can demonstrate more integrity than many of those elected to Washington.
We reported on this issue last week, noting that the hotel's expected request to the city to vacate 3,000 feet of the road comes as the region is mired in an ongoing drought and the Waldo Canyon Fire is still vivid in all of our memories. Broadmoor President and CEO Steve Bartolin told the Indy that the Broadmoor's plans would allow for the vacated road to be used in emergencies. He added that tonight's meeting is only the beginning of engaging with the public, with the resort planning several more community meetings.
After the Broadmoor does file its application to close the street, the city's process requires only one public meeting before City Council.
American Medical Response might not be running emergency ambulance calls in Colorado Springs for too much longer, so it might be a good time to take a look at how it has served the area for more than a decade under the El Paso County Emergency Services Agency, a multi-jurisdictional group that oversees the AMR contract.
In its "Colorado Springs Community Report," AMR notes the company began serving the local community in 1979 and has contracted through the ESA since 1999. It reports:
AMR’s 250 local caregivers and support staff are proud to provide state-of-the-art medical care and transportation to the citizens of and visitors to El Paso County. We appreciate the confidence shown by the El Paso County Emergency Services Agency in selecting AMR to provide service. AMR Colorado Springs meets the industry “gold standard” by maintaining Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services certification.
The report also talks about its community service and its response time record. This chart goes from the most rural areas covered by the AMR contract, called Frontier, to the most dense (Urban 8), that being Colorado Springs:
And when things got dicey due to the Waldo Canyon Fire last summer, AMR says, it swung into action:
On the evening of June 26th, as the Waldo Canyon fire exploded onto the west side of Colorado Springs, AMR pulled together more than 50 units (AMR units from Denver, Pueblo and Canon City, as well as city busses and other private resources from Colorado Springs and Denver area) to evacuate Mt. St. Francis skilled nursing facility on the west side of town. This facility had 108 residents that were all moved to safety within two-and-a-half hours. As flames approached, this multijurisdictional task force remained in place until all residents and staff were enroute to safety. An AMR Operation Supervisor assumed the transport command role leading two task forces throughout the night assisting three more nursing homes and several assisted care facilities that were in the pre- evacuation areas.
During the week while the fire was most active AMR maintained the multijurisdictional ambulance task force and was also asked to help rehabilitate firefighters and police officers, as well as set up medical triage at the evacuation centers. AMR also maintained extra staff to run the 9-1-1 and non-emergency calls throughout the city and county. Not a single call went without a response; AMR was able to respond to all calls, freeing the Colorado Springs Fire Department to be on modified medical dispatch throughout most of the Waldo Canyon fire, allowing them to focus all resources on the fire.
This is confirmed in the city's Waldo Canyon Fire Final After Action Report, released Wednesday, which states that AMR was asked to take on additional duties the very first day of the fire. "CSFD [Fire Department] District Chiefs conferred and decided to use modified dispatch procedures, diverting several medical calls to American Medical Response (AMR) ntil 0300 the following day [June 24, the second day of the fire]."
Read the entire report here:
But AMR's days in Colorado Springs might be numbered. Mayor Steve Bach has notified the ESA the city will pull out of the regional organization and bid its own contract with an emergency provider. It's unclear if Plan B, turning emergency transport over to firefighters, is still under consideration, because city officials refuse to speak publicly about their plans other than through prepared statements.
Fire Chief Rich Brown's statement to the ESA board:
A Fire Department-based system was rejected several years ago due to the high cost (about $5 million) to capitalize the service, as well as other issues, which we reported here.
Mark Bruning, who worked for Americal Medical Response for three decades, including overseeing the Colorado Springs operation through a complete revamping of how medical transport is handled in the 1990s, will be leaving the Greenwood Village-based company.
The AMR website reports Bruning's departure this way:
EMSC CEO William A Sanger today announced the departure of AMR president Mark Bruning. EMSC is the parent company of AMR, a provider of emergency medical transportation services. Sanger said Bruning will continue to serve as an adviser to the company.
The Denver Business Journal reports his last day is Monday.
Bruning served for four years as president of the company and survived an ownership change in recent years.
Here's the bio from the company's website:
Mr. Bruning is responsible for leading the successful implementation of AMR's strategic and operational initiatives company wide. His direct reports include AMR's regional chief executive officers and other key AMR executive and support staff. Previously, Mr. Bruning served as Chief Operating Officer of AMR's Central Division where he was widely acclaimed for his efforts to improve and streamline customer service at the local level. Involved in EMS for more than 24 years, Mr. Bruning has worked as a paramedic, supervisor and a variety of operational leadership positions including vice president in the company. He holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He has served as the President of the Emergency Medical Services Association of Colorado (EMSAC). In 2005, he was awarded the Peg Hamilton award by the EMSAC Board of Directors for outstanding service to the Association and its members.
UPDATE: Mary Talbott, a Colorado Springs resident who has watched the city's oil and gas regulation process like a hawk, has analyzed the proposed Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rules and takes issue with several points in an e-mail to us. Among them:
1. The proposed rule doesn't mandate water testing if wells aren't available in the vicinity, and it doesn't require that monitoring wells be drilled.
—Talbott wants water testing mandated.
2. The proposed rule essentially doesn't require water to be re-sampled if water was tested within 18 months prior to drilling the production well or an injection well, which is used to dispose of waste from the drilling process.
—Talbott's take: "It appears to me that the COGCC assumes that no contamination or changes in the condition of water can occur in 18 months or less. To assume that there has been no change is unreasonable, and this section should be deleted."
3. Water testing results, under the proposed rule, are to be posted to the COGCC website "or through another means announced to the public." The proposed rule also requires the COGCC to provide the test results to the Local Government Designee, a local official who oversees oil and gas activity, "upon request."
—Talbott says, "Under all circumstances the test results should be posted on the COGCC website on the documents page for the appropriate well...." She also says the LGD should be given the report automatically and not have to request the results.
4. The proposed rule on the distance between wells and homes and high-occupancy buildings is stricter than the existing rule, which requires 350 feet in most cases.
—Talbott says that's not good enough. "The proposed changes to the setback rules do not go far enough to protect people," she says. "Given the information that continues to emerge about the health impacts of air emissions, the setbacks proposed ... are inadequate."
———ORIGINAL POST MONDAY, DEC. 31, 5:09 P.M.———
The required distance between homes and drilling rigs would grow, and underground water supplies would require pre-drilling tests (as well as tests after the drilling operation shuts down), under proposed rules issued today by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).
The state agency says if adopted as proposed, the updated rules would be the most stringent in the nation.
It's likely the rules will have an impact on how oil and gas exploration will take place in Colorado Springs, because COGCC rules preempt most local rules, including those related to water quality and setbacks, and City Council members have expressed a desire to hold off adopting its drilling ordinance until the state addresses certain issues.
Council approved the ordinance on first reading Nov. 27. After many residents expressed disdain with the decision, Council postponed its second reading until a work session is held on Tuesday, Jan. 15, from 3 to 6 p.m. at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave. Council would then vote on the proposed ordinance at a meeting later in the month. However, that might get held up if Council wants to wait to see what the state does.
The issue is hot because Ultra Resources of Houston bought 18,000 acres of the Banning Lewis Ranch on the city's east side in 2011, and has been waiting for the city to adopt rules for drilling so it can find out what lies below. Ultra thinks the productive Niobrara Shale, which extends through northern Colorado and southern Wyoming, reaches into El Paso County.
The state's proposed rules will be reviewed by COGCC commissioners on Jan. 7, 8 and 9 at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, 1550 Court Place, starting at 9 a.m. each day. The commission is comprised of people across Colorado with expertise in environmental wildlife protection, agriculture, soil conservation, oil and gas production and regulatory oversight.
The commission may accept the proposed rules as written or modify them or pursue entirely different options.
Here's the news release:
State oil and gas regulators today completed groundbreaking proposals for groundwater protection and the reduction of drilling impacts near homes for consideration next week before the nine-member Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
The draft rules follow months of stakeholder meetings and public participation, including nearly a year of presentations and comment on the issue of how best to balance energy production with the need to minimize impacts on residences from nearby oil and gas development.
The two sets of rules were developed with extensive input from local governments, farmers and ranchers, the environmental community, homeowners, the energy industry, homebuilders, mineral owners, environmental health specialists and business leaders. COGCC staff has spent much of 2012 engaging these stakeholders in order to develop rules that protect the public health and environment while providing the flexibility needed to allow for production of energy that all Coloradans depend upon in everyday life, creates and sustains thousands of jobs and is critical to the state’s economy.
“These proposed rules reinforce Colorado’s role as a national pacesetter in the comprehensive and progressive regulation of oil and gas exploration and production,” said Matt Lepore, director of the COGCC, the state’s regulatory agency that staffs the Governor-appointed Commission. “These proposals contain mitigation standards unprecedented nationally and mark yet another step forward in fashioning a model regulatory framework that strikes a balance that’s right for Colorado.”
“At the same time, we understand that our draft rules will leave no one set of interests completely satisfied, and provide various targets for those who want to see it done differently,” Lepore said. “And yet, we expect most everyone who participated will see elements and concepts in these proposals that they helped initiate and push forward.”
Components of the proposals include:
—The new rules will require operators to meet enhanced mitigation, notice and outreach requirements when drilling near residences beginning at 1,000 feet. Setbacks in previous rules of 350 feet (urban) and 150 feet (rural) will now be 500 feet statewide.
—New measures to limit impacts may include pit-less drilling, steel berms and underground liners, strict dust and lighting controls and capture of gasses to reduce odors and emissions.
—Operators must engage in expanded notice and outreach efforts with nearby residents and conduct additional engagement with local governments about proposed operations.
—Operators must conduct sampling of water wells near drilling sites both before and after drilling activities to ensure drinking water aquifers are protected. This would make Colorado the only state to require sampling both pre- and post-drilling.
—Operators cannot operate within 1,000 feet of buildings housing larger numbers of people, such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals without a hearing before the Commission.
We tried to reach the Colorado Oil and Gas Association for a comment, but couldn't reach anyone. When we hear back, we'll post again.
Neumann Systems Group, Inc., the homegrown company that's invented a brand of emissions-control technology, says it's NeuStream System has been nominated for an Edison Award. The awards recognize "game changing" products, services, design and innovation in multiple arenas.
The nomination was recommended by an unnamed member of the Edison Awards steering committee, Neumann says in a press release.
Neumann Systems Group, owned by Dave Neumann, a retired Air Force officer and professor at the Air Force Academy, developed technology that's cheaper, smaller and more efficient than competitors at removing sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power plants. The equipment is currently being installed on the city-owned Colorado Springs Utilities' Martin Drake Power Plant, its testing ground for several years.
From Neumann's release:
NeuStream is a disruptive 'platform' technology, meaning it has potential for revolutionary impact in a wide-range of product areas important to the industrial and economic well-being of the United States and the rest of the world. NeuStream technology enables cost effective capture of pollutants from fossil fuel plants including greenhouse gases and it enables the cost effective use of these captured pollutants in the production of chemicals such as fertilizers and sulfuric and nitric acids; building materials such as gypsum; rare earth and strategic metals needed for energy efficiency, electric vehicle and wind and solar applications.
The Edison Award, named for Thomas Alva Edison (who held 1,093 U.S. patents), is considered among the highest honors a company can receive for new product development.
Past winners include the 2012 Ford Focus electric car, Apple's iPad and OnStar, the in-vehicle security, communications and diagnostics system.
Finalists will be named in early February. The awards are sponsored by Nielsen, Discovery Communication, Science Channel, USA Today and applepeak.
Yes, this is the same company that Colorado Springs Councilor Tim Leigh has accused of hoodwinking the city, saying its "experimental" technology hasn't been vetted by a third party. That claim isn't true; the NeuStream has been vetted by outsiders. Neumann recently called for an ethics investigation into Leigh's statements, which he contends are designed to persuade the Utilities Board, comprised of City Council, to abandon the Drake project.
Leigh has been promoting Mayor Steve Bach's desire for a sports stadium in lower downtown where Drake now sits, adjacent to property owned by the Jenkins land-development family, which funded the $1-million strong-mayor government change that led to Bach being elected mayor in 2011.
In his ethics complaint, Neumann notes that Hoff & Leigh, for whom Leigh works, has several properties listed in the vicinity of the lower downtown area, which Neumann says poses a financial conflict of interest for Leigh.
Leigh hasn't returned our e-mail seeking his comment on the ethics complaint, which has been forwarded to the city's Independent Ethics Commission for review. If he gets back, we'll post his response.
City Council's second reading of the oil and gas regulation ordinance won't happen until Dec. 11, but foes of the ordinance are already planning a protest rally.
We wrote about the ordinance in our latest edition.
Learn more about the protest, scheduled for noon on Dec. 11 in front of City Hall here.
And here's the announcement from the Colorado Springs Citizens for Community Rights:
On November 27th City councilmembers voted 6-3 to approve weak oil & gas regulations which would approve drilling in residentially zoned areas and fail to protect our right to clean and safe water, air, and soil. CSCCR commends councilmembers Martin, Snider, and Hente for voting “no” and standing up in favor of our community in spite of pressure from the COGCC and the oil & gas industry to pass them.
The decision to adopt these regulations should be a call to action for residents who are unwilling to silently consent to the plunder of our pristine natural landscapes and deterioration of our quality of life. The CSCCR rally will aim to bring attention to the inadequate oil and gas regulations scheduled for a City Council vote that afternoon. Colorado Springs Citizens for Community Rights (CSCCR) is a group working to encourage better regulation and an ultimate ban on the practice of hydraulic fracturing within the city limits.
CSCCR will call for a delayed vote so councilmembers can first accompany them on their “Bring Your Own Gas Mask Tour” and see the effects of drilling firsthand. All councilmembers and members of the media have been invited to this educational field trip to Rifle, Colorado where oil & gas drilling has been rampant and changed the lives of residents and their animals for the worst. The trip is scheduled for December 13, 2012.
CSCCR has concluded the proposed regulations do not offer any protection beyond what the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission already regulates. The COGCC’s record reveals their regulations are inefficient and unenforceable, working against the citizens of Colorado and in favor of the oil and gas industry. For example, there are only 17 inspectors for 47,000 active gas wells. The proposed regulations also do not require water quality testing or toxic air emission control, and are therefore unacceptable, according to the group.
“Our elected representatives should not be persuaded to accept weak regulations out of fear for ‘operational conflict’ or the threat of a lawsuit from industry or the state,” remarked Lemus. “The Colorado Constitution and Colorado courts recognize home rule powers for municipalities and ‘the full right of self-government in local and municipal matters’ to citizens. Councilmembers can still reverse their ‘yay’ votes from November 27th and exercise this right.”
Colorado Springs Citizens for Community Rights (CSCCR) is a group formed to protect our rights to be healthy and have clean air, water and soil. Our mission is to:
• Educate our city about oil & gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking);
• Work with local, state and federal governments to ensure comprehensive oil & gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing regulations;
• Place a rights-based charter amendment on the ballot in Colorado Springs banning hydraulic fracturing.
President and CEO Dr. Eric Lee is leaving the position to become executive director of Colorado Community College Online.
Prior to working for the Chamber, Lee was assistant to the president at Suffolk University in Boston, and taught at Suffolk's Sawyer Business School and the College of Arts & Sciences. In April 2009, Lee replaced former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb as leader of the Chamber.
The Chamber is searching for a new leader. Lee's last day is Nov. 9.
DR. ERIC LEE LEAVING COLORADO BLACK CHAMBER OF COMMERCE TO RETURN TO LEADERSHIP IN HIGHER EDUCATION
7 November 2012 (Denver) - After four years of leadership Dr. Eric Lee, President and CEO of the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce to become Executive Director of Colorado Community College Online, Chairman Richard Lewis announced today.
"Eric has done a tremendous job at the CBCC, where he has worked tirelessly on behalf of our growing membership. I am sorry to see him go," Lewis said. "However, the good news is that Eric and his family are staying in Colorado and in his new position will continue helping to serve people in our community."
Lewis praised Lee's accomplishments during his tenure at the chamber: "Eric increased the number and quality of programs offered to chamber members; he led a strategic visioning and merging with the African American Construction Council; he saw beyond barriers and forged a partnership with the Hispanic Contractors of Colorado to develop the highly successful Contractor Academy program; he provided the and he broadened the chamber's reach with nationally recognized programs to support black entrepreneurs. While it is always hard to lose dedicated, talented people, I am confident that with the processes and procedures established by Eric; the chamber will continue to function at a high level."
Lee's resignation is effective November 9th and a search for Lee's replacement will begin immediately.
"It has been an honor to work with Richard Lewis and former Mayor Wellington Webb and their colleagues on the board of directors," Lee said. "I have been privileged to work with an incredibly dedicated, hard-working and talented board at the chamber."
"This has been a difficult decision for me," Dr. Lee said. "The work at the chamber has been rewarding - and much remains to do. However, the opportunity to return to higher education in a leadership role returns me to my core expertise as an educator. The CBCC served as a tremendous opportunity in my professional career and for that, I'm eternally grateful to the board and the individuals who recruited me to Denver."
In his new role, Lee will provide leadership and administrative direction for all of CCCOnline's operational, academic, educational and technical activities. CCCOnline is an extension of and a service to each of the 13 Colorado Community College System (CCCS) colleges offering students an entire virtual educational option and greater access to all the CCCS colleges.
About Dr. Lee and Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce
Dr. Eric Lee was appointed President & CEO of the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce in April 2009.
The Colorado Black Chamber (CBCC) began in 1985 with just a staff of one and a handful of Black business members. Now, the organization boasts more than 50 corporate members and nearly 1000 business members. The Chamber remains a solid voice for the Black business community while continuously refocusing its efforts to meet the ever changing needs of its members.
The CBCC provides extraordinary customer service, reasonable member rates and value-add resources. It works with other area chambers to give members a broad range of opportunity for networking and visibility. It's more than a business as usual membership organization. It's the best friend and partner of its members, working exclusively on their behalf and providing the assistance and support they need.
Prior to coming to the chamber, Lee spent fourteen years in higher education developing, and administering programs to serve the needs of students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Suffolk University.
Lee has a doctorate degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
After my lengthy inquiry last year into the success (or lack thereof) that local restaurants experienced from Groupon and LivingSocial deals, I remain partially skeptical of the advertising method.
As I essentially said then, the sites clearly work for some businesses but not for others, often times depending on how they're structured.
That argument aside, I came across a Groupon deal this morning, here, in which it's clear that everyone involved wins.
It's an $11 donation to Not Alone toward mental-health counseling and support services for veterans.
From the campaign details:
Veterans can take part in all of the services offered through the program, including online group therapy, in-person counseling sessions, and the eClinic for 24/7 emergencies.
For every 100 donors, 10 veterans will be served. At the time of this posting, some 640 deals have been purchased.
"The Fine Print" section of the deal does say that 100 percent of donations go directly to Not Alone, so it appears that Groupon isn't taking its typical cut as the matchmaker.
Without kittens and infographics, we're certain the Internet would cease to exist. To prevent that kind of heartache, we proudly present Best Of 2012 Food & Drink tidbits in a tasty infographic.
If stats aren't your thing, just know that this graphical representation includes sushi, cake, pizza, pickled eggs, pubs and live music. (Click to enlarge.)
Look for the second installation of the Indy's Best Of Colorado Springs awards next week. Until then, may we recommend Googling "kitten videos"?
Step one came earlier this year when the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce merged with the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp., retagging the organization as the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC.
Now, the group has a new name: the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.
The new title shaves one word from the group's title, but still is a mouth full. Chamber officials say the new name signifies that the alliance is covering both bases for the two organizations. (The chamber used to provide support to existing businesses, and the EDC recruited new business and industry.)
"These two leading organizations dedicated to business growth and prosperity are now working as one, powerfully bonded and strategically aligned with our partners in the region and with the broader Front Range," the alliance said in a news release.
“One of the primary focuses of this new organization is its commitment to serving our existing companies in the region, both those engaged in interstate commerce and those that survive on the local economy,” said Joe Raso, president and chief executive officer of the Business Alliance. “Businesses already operating and prospering in our region play a vital role in our efforts to grow the local economy and recruit new enterprises. They know the resources that have madetheir companies successful, and are excellent ambassadors for our market. They are also the first to identify opportunities for changes that will help ourbusiness community grow, and that is why they are the primary focus of our work.
“Our name and logo establishes a single identity for two organizations that merged in February 2012,” said Raso. “This is a big step as we set our new course and continue to work as the primary advocate for the business community in the Colorado Springs/Pikes Peak region dedicated to serving businesses of all sizes and to building regional economic growth and prosperity.” While the two organizations merged earlier this year, they moved under one roof in late August with offices in downtown Colorado Springs at 102 S. Tejon Street, Suite 430.
The board is working on a 20-year "vision for our region," the release said, focusing on existing businesses of all sizes, pumping up its "leadership role in government affairs," improving communications, creating a way to develop the workforce to satisfy businesses' needs, and "establishing a culture of innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit that will attract and retain the young, diverse and educated minds important to the survival of our businesses and region."
The merger of the Chamber and EDC, both of whom claim to want to create jobs, ironically, resulted in layoffs within its own organization. Several of those wound up with government jobs, most notably Stephannie Finley, now working at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs in a newly created half-time position that pays $57,500 a year.
But Raso says in an interview that there's no irony. He says the two merged organizations, which at one time had 35 positions combined, now have 20 and will rely on outsourcing for some functions. It's hired Lisa Bachman for communications work and Kevin Walker to handle governmental affairs, for example, he says.
"The first thing we need to do is be effective with our resources," he says. "Our job is not to make our organization grow." He adds the alliance will continue to change to meet the needs of the business community.
The alliance will continue and enhance the Chamber and EDC's role in the following public initiatives, according to the release:
· Supporting the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority sales tax extension for transportation infrastructure improvements, which will be voted on this November, and will pump tens of millions of dollars into the local economy and contractors' hands.
· Exploring governance/ownership of Colorado Springs Utilities, owned by its customers for roughly 100 years, and the future of the Drake Power Plant, which provides more than a quarter of the city's base load of power.
· Supporting the lease of Memorial Health System to University of Colorado Health, a 40-year deal that closes Monday and gives the city an upfront payment of $259 million that's already tied up in a lawsuit the city filed to try to get out of paying money the Public Employees Retirement Association on behalf of Memorial's 4,000 employees.
“We’re also visiting national leaders for discussions on the military, transportation, sports economy, fire mitigation and education,” Raso said in the release. “These are sectors critical to our economy and the Business Alliance is going to establish itself as a visionary leader in designing a strategic plan of action and community vision based on our assets and competitive advantages.”
The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, with more than 1,500 members, is the primary advocate of the Colorado Springs/Pikes Peak region business community.
For information, go here.
Dave Neumann, owner of Neumann Systems Group, which developed the NeuStream emissions control technology being installed on coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant, is exploring moving his business elsewhere.
In an exclusive interview with the Indy, Neumann says Councilman Tim Leigh's crusade against his company and his efforts to kill Colorado Springs Utilities' contract with Neumann Systems could lead to the loss of 60 jobs and a multimillion-dollar benefit of the city receiving a cut from the firm's gross sales.
"You can't have somebody out there that is just hammering away and damaging your company," Neumann says.
For the past four months, Leigh has called Neumann's technology "unproven" and "experimental," and challenged the roughly $120 million contract's fairness to ratepayers. Neumann says Leigh has told him the opposition to his technology has been mounted at the behest of Mayor Steve Bach. (We have contacted the mayor's office and will update if and when we receive a response.)
The latest tirade from Leigh came in his so-called "market report," in which he again challenges the technology has the most economical available.
"My colleagues agreed to undertake and study Drake issues at yesterday’s [Wednesday's] CSU Board meeting," writes Leigh, who didn't attend the meeting. "They did not go far enough. We must stop the Neumann spend at Drake now. If there were less costly other options available previously, we must find out if there still are. We don’t have the answers and until we do, we can’t continue to spend, spend, spend."
Springs Utilities officials have repeatedly said the Neumann technology is a third cheaper than other options available today, and energy chief Bruce McCormick reiterated that position today in an interview with the Indy.
"The damage that's been done to our company by Tim Leigh and the feedback we've gotten from prospective customers is unreal," Neumann says. "We're being very badly hurt by the mayor and Tim Leigh."
Although Neumann wrote a letter threatening Leigh with a legal action if he didn't stop disparaging his company with untruths, and said Leigh has "opened himself up to incredible liability," he says he believes it's bad policy to sue a City Councilman.
Neumann says he's met with officials in another state and has a meeting next week with a governor in another state. He also wants to meet with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to explore possible locations in other parts of Colorado.
If Neumann leaves, he'll vacate 45,000 square feet of space on Elkton Drive and the possibility of ultimately occupying 150,000 square feet when his manufacturing operation gears up with orders.
But if the city honors the contract and allows the technology to become functional on Drake, Neumann Systems will stay put, he says. Other utilities are eagerly awaiting a full build-out on Drake to be assure the technology works. The NeuStream has been shown by multiple tests and multiple examinations by experts to work in a test on 20 megawatts of power production. Because the technology is simply an add-on for larger loads, Neumann and Utilities are confident of its efficacy, he says.
"We have been treated great [by the city] up until the last three to four months," Neumann says. "I think we've constructed this win-win partnership with the city and we're delivering low cost emissions control to the city, cleaning the air. Up until that point when the mayor and Leigh decided to take down the Drake plant and us along with it, it's been great. We've had a tremendous opportunity here. There are great people on Council. I think very highly of the vast majority of the people on City Council."
He says Leigh's commentary has led potential customers to question the system. If the city succeeds in driving away his business, it would miss out on a cut of gross sales in a firm that holds 36 patents in nine countries and is working with international distributors.
"There's an awful lot in the works here," he says. "It's a waste of our effort if we're going to be in a community that has a few people who are trying to run us out of town."
Leigh says via email: "Nothing could be further from the truth! I'm an entrepreneur and I love other entrepreneurs. The norm for a business like Mr Neumann's is to let the free market fund his experiments, not unaware ratepayers who can't afford venture capital style risks. If Neumann's stuff proves to be as good as he says, I will be labeled the town clown for questioning it and him, and (rightfully so). That he lashes out in this manner continues to fan my flame of suspicion."