Economy

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"Fun Facts About Homelessness"

Posted By on Wed, May 4, 2016 at 10:43 AM


The Coalition for Compassion and Action, which describes itself as "the activism arm for the movement to end homelessness in Colorado Springs" has released a video called "Fun Facts About Homelessness," that is, to be frank, not very funny. 

The video discusses the plight of the local homeless, who have been without emergency shelter through the last few snow storms, and criticizes the city for not responding quickly enough.

For instance, the video notes that the city did not spend federal dollars on homelessness that instead sat in an account for years. The city does get funding for certain homeless programs from the feds that is spent every year. But it's true that the city left years worth of money it receives from Community Development Block Grant Funds sitting in an account for years. You can read about it here. (It should be noted that CDBG funds didn't necessarily have to be spent on the homeless, and could have gone to other community needs had the homeless not been identified as a priority by the city.)

The video also criticizes the city for a lack of emergency shelter beds. It is true that winter shelters have closed, and that the city has fewer shelter beds than needed. But it should be noted that many normal shelters are still operating, even if they do fall short of the true need.

Finally, the video points out that without adequate shelter, the homeless are forced to camp on public lands, which is illegal. That's true. The city police, however, are supposed to provide campers with a shelter bed if they force them to pack up camp. The city is meeting soon to discuss how to handle homeless camps this summer, when there will be a severe shortage of shelter beds.  The upshot: People will be allowed to camp.

Enjoy the video. Or don't. Really it's pretty depressing.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Colorado Springs is fifth best place to live

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 5:44 PM

Mayor John Suthers says "very proud" of the designation. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mayor John Suthers says "very proud" of the designation.

Colorado Springs may have its share of problems, from potholes to panhandlers, but it's still the fifth best place to live in the country according to the  U.S. News and World Report.

Denver was No. 1 on the 2016 “Best Places to Live” list. But the Springs rated higher than many other cities often cited for their quality of life, including Portland, Seattle, Boise, San Francisco, and San Jose.

Mayor John Suthers held a press conference this afternoon to celebrate the good news, along with other favorable rankings of the city. The mayor said Colorado Springs’ strong finish was a sign that the city is being recognized for its “positive trajectory,” including:

• an improving political climate
• the recent deal that allowed the city to be branded “Olympic City USA”
• a 15-year sustained low in the unemployment rate (which stands at 4 to 4.3 percent)
• a strong housing market
• a relatively low cost of living
• improving infrastructure
• strong hospitals and universities
• a growing airport
• beautiful outdoor spaces
• a great quality of life

On that last point, the mayor said that “desirability” — or how much people want to live here, based on a Google Consumer Survey — was among the factors that the U.S News and World Report examined. Colorado Springs, he said, was the only city to score a perfect 10 on that index.

Doug Price, President and CEO of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that Denver’s top ranking benefits the Springs by bringing more people to the state. Many visitors, he says, go on to move the Springs once they see what the city has to offer. Part of the draw, he says, is the friendly locals, who are often willing to recommend a favorite restaurant or offer directions.

“When people travel,” he says, “they like to see ‘How do you people live?’”

Dirk Draper, President and CEO of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, highlighted another honor that the Springs recently received. The Springs is one of ten cities to be named a “Great American Defense Community” by the Association of Defense Communities. This is the first year the award has been given. It honors cities for supporting service members and military families.
      
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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Growing north: More development announced

Posted By on Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 10:42 AM

interquest_aerial_sm.jpg

The city's north side will get another shot in the arm, according to an announcement just in from a Denver real estate firm that's acquired nearly 77 acres bordering Interquest Parkway and Interstate 25.

The development will bring apartments, offices, neighborhood retail and hotels. The news release:
Denver, CO, Feb. 11, 2016 – Etkin Johnson Real Estate Partners, Colorado’s leading commercial real estate developer, manager and investor, announced today it is acquiring 76.8 acres of vacant land at InterQuest, a high‐tech business park fronting Interstate 25 in northern Colorado Springs. The property’s strategic location, just east of the U.S. Air Force Academy, offers superior highway visibility and access as well as unobstructed views of nearby Pikes Peak. The site was purchased from Corporate Office
Properties Trust or (COPT) for $4.35 million.

Situated at the southeast corner of Interstate 25 and Interquest Parkway, the site is located at the epicenter of InterQuest, adjacent to office buildings, hotels, and key entertainment and retail at InterQuest Marketplace. This regional shopping center is located at the front door of Colorado Springs and provides north‐side consumers an updated alternative to the Chapel Hills/North Academy shopping district. Additionally, Great Wolf Resorts announced last summer it will transform the retail center’s unfinished Renaissance Hotel into a family‐style resort, which will open in late fall 2016 with a water
park, restaurants, children’s entertainment and meeting space. The resort expects to employ 400 to 500 full‐and part‐time workers.

Other neighboring properties have either experienced development in recent years or have near‐term projects slated. The increased activity in the area reflects the vibrancy of northern Colorado Springs’ rapidly growing submarket.

In addition to the recent land acquisition, Etkin Johnson owns and manages three office/flex properties in Colorado Springs, maintaining a presence in the region for more than 20 years.

“This is a particularly exciting opportunity to acquire bulk land with freeway frontage in a local market we’re already active in and familiar with,” said Derek Conn, director of finance at Etkin Johnson Real Estate Partners. Conn negotiated the transaction with Colorado Springs broker, Michael Payne Palmer of Quantum Commercial Group Inc. and Jim Capecelatro of Cushman & Wakefield Denver.

With significant infrastructure already in place, Etkin Johnson is planning a mixed‐use development project for the site, known as The Gateway at InterQuest, which will include a blend of apartments, office, neighborhood retail and hotels. The company plans to offer smaller pad sites for sale or build‐to-suit.

“Etkin Johnson is an ideal developer for this land, both in terms of their local efforts and the momentum it will bring to the northern submarket,” said Palmer. “They have an existing presence in Colorado Springs and a proven track record of successfully developing mixed‐use environments that attract residents, high‐tech companies and quality tenants.”

“This acquisition provides us the opportunity to utilize all of our core competencies as a long‐time, local investor in a market where substantial value can be created,” said Conn. “Our development plans will draw on the strengths of our more than 25‐year history in Colorado and will focus on creating a vibrant community in this fast‐growing area.”

About Etkin Johnson Real Estate Partners

Etkin Johnson Real Estate Partners is a Denver‐based development, investment, ownership and management company with a portfolio of more than 5 million square feet of office, hotel and industrial holdings worth in excess of $500 million.

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Monday, January 4, 2016

Renting in Colorado costs a bundle

Posted By on Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 3:34 PM

Apartment List has just released its latest Colorado Rent Report, which shows rents in Colorado are growing faster than the national average. Some highlights:

• Boulder is Colorado’s most expensive city with an average 2 bedroom price of $2,010.
• A 2 bedroom unit in Colorado averaged $1,320 for the month of December.
• Colorado rents are growing at a rate of 3.9%, in comparison to a national average growth of 2.7%.

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Colorado Springs ranked significantly lower, reporting rent of a two-bedroom at $930, according to the report.

But according to rentjungle.com, a two-bedroom rents for $999, a 35-percent increase since 2009.

This is why apartment projects have been popping up all over the city, including a big complex at Woodmen Road and Union Boulevard, and several projects are planned for downtown. There's also a huge project in the works for the site of Bates Elementary just south of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.


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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Skip the hills, try "Pedal the Plains"

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 at 11:48 AM

Crowley County offers some beautiful views. - BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Crowley County offers some beautiful views.

Back in 2011, I wrote about Crowley County, which had the unenviable distinction of being the poorest county in the state. 

Crowley was once as American as apple pie. In fact, it was places like Crowley, which grew the sugar beets that once were used to fill the country's sugar bowls, that made apple pie possible. But like other farming towns, Crowley hasn't fared so well over the decades and by the time I visited, it was slowly dying. 

I can still remember the town's leaders talking about the Pedal the Plains Bicycle Tour, which is now hosted by the Denver Post. Back then, it was a brand new idea, a way to get tourists to check out the flatlands of Colorado. The best part was that it would bring much-needed dollars to this county and the ones around it, all of which struggle to make ends meet.

Pedal the Plains is now in its fourth year. I haven't personally ridden the tour, though I've returned to Crowley to ride my bike down the lonesome roads. The people are incredibly kind, the scenery serene, and the roads long and flat. It's the type of place that makes you feel like you could keep riding forever. 

This year's tour is a bit north of Crowley, but still in Colorado's farming communities. So if you're curious about the plains, or you love riding flatlands, or you want to help out farmers and rural folks, check out the tour this year. Here's the information:

Julesburg, Holyoke and Sterling host 2015 route

​​DENVER — Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015 — The fourth annual Denver Post Pedal The Plains Bicycle Tour will launch from Julesburg, Colorado for a three-day, 155 mile journey through eastern Colorado’s high plains.

From Sept. 18-20, participants will ride to stops in three host communities: Julesburg, Holyoke and Sterling. Off the bike, riders will enjoy live performances by the Flobots and Rapidgrass Quintet.

“After four great years, Pedal The Plains is the best way to experience communities on Colorado’s eastern plains,” said Hickenlooper. “We are always excited to saddle up with friends and family while visiting some incredible towns.”

The ride across Colorado’s eastern plains is a celebration of the state’s growing cycling culture, combining great rides, delicious eats and close friends. Billed as “a ride for the rest of us,” Pedal The Plains is set in the heart of western agriculture, home of the frontier spirit that inspires participants to keep pedaling.

For the first time ever, the Tour’s route will roll across the border into Nebraska. Riders will pedal away the weekend between entertainment and festivities, eat meals made with locally raised beef, pork and lamb as well as local produce and stay in accommodations ranging from tents to bed and breakfasts. Participants can enjoy their time off the bicycle seat as much as on it. From pie-eating contests to Odell Brewing Co. beer gardens to live music and games, Pedal The Plains has it all.

The Denver Post Community Foundation, which has managed the internationally renowned cycling event Ride The Rockies through 30 successful years, is also the organizer for this uniquely Colorado event.

“Our world-class team running Ride The Rockies has successfully built Pedal The Plains into an annual end-of-the-cycling-season bash not to be missed,” said Dean Singleton, Chairman of The Denver Post.

Pedal The Plains will provide numerous economic benefits and opportunities for host communities’ lodging, restaurant, retail businesses, as well as entertainment, community meals, home stays and transportation.

Established four years ago, Pedal The Plains is a celebration of Colorado’s agricultural roots and the state’s frontier heritage on the Eastern Plains. 1,000 cyclists are expected to take part in this year’s ride.

Proceeds from the ride will benefit The Denver Post Community Foundation in support of the Colorado Future Farmers of America Foundation and Colorado 4-H. Pedal The Plains and The Denver Post Community Foundation provide a $6,000 grant to both Colorado 4H and FFA, a $3,000 grant to each of the three host communities; the host communities then choose a local organization of their choice.

Viaero Wireless, the Tour’s presenting sponsor, is joined in supporting the ride by founding partners State of Colorado, Western Dairy Association, Anadarko Petroleum, Noble Energy and Suncor Energy.

“There is no greater day for a homegrown community business than one where we have a chance to give back,” said Frank Dirico, President, Viaero Wireless. “We are excited to help bring Pedal The Plains to the communities of Julesburg, Holyoke and Sterling.”

Pedal The Plains’ ride offerings include the 3-Day Tour, Century Ride and Family Fun Ride. Online registration is closed, but walk-on registration is available for all of the Tour’s ride offerings. Visit www.pedaltheplains.com for more information.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Colorado + $100 million = Biking state

Posted By on Wed, Sep 16, 2015 at 11:49 AM

Bikes are bigger business than you might think. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Bikes are bigger business than you might think.

As a cyclist, I might have done a little dance this morning when this landed in my inbox: Gov. John Hickenlooper will spend $100 million over the next four years on bicycling infrastructure in an effort to make Colorado the No. 1 state for biking.

Say it with me: "We're No. 1!"

Now, I know some of you may be eyeballing this announcement with some cynicism. I mean, $100 million is a lot of dough. But bicycling infrastructure has been found to pay off big time for local economies. And, it can be a big plus for locals and tourists. I actually wrote a story not that long ago about the strides our city is taking to try to improve bicycling infrastructure. One would hope such a large statewide initiative will help Colorado Springs meet it's goals more quickly.

The announcement was just made, so we'll have to wait and see how it plays out. But here's all the information that's been released from the governor's office:

Gov. Hickenlooper announces $100 million commitment to Colorado’s biking infrastructure

DENVER — Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015 — Gov. John Hickenlooper today announced the state’s commitment of more than $100 million over the next four years to enhance Colorado’s ability to become the best state to ride a bike.

“Our goal is to make Colorado the best state for biking in the country,” said Hickenlooper. “These investments will help fuel our economic growth and tourism industry, move us toward a cleaner environment and advance our goal of being the healthiest state in the nation.”

Colorado is often ranked the fittest state, and was recently ranked the most physically active state in the country. Even with these stats, Colorado has an obesity rate of more than 21 percent, up from 16 percent in 2004. In addition, a nationwide study found that kids are only spending 4-7 minutes outside in unstructured play every day, but are spending 7-10 hours a day staring at screens. Biking is one of the ways Colorado is aiming to change these stats.

The four year plan and $100 million budget will allow Colorado to add bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, better understand and market the cycling industry and support awareness and education efforts to promote safety.

“We want to encourage riders of all shapes, sizes and abilities and make biking as safe and accessible as possible statewide,” said Ken Gart, Colorado’s bike czar. “With more than 5,000 miles of biking trails throughout the state, and events like Pedal The Plains and the USA Pro Challenge, Colorado is poised to take this lead.”

The Colorado Pedals Project, Bicycle Colorado, Great Outdoors Colorado, and many more are working with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Office of Economic Development, Colorado Tourism Office, and other state agencies, to develop the overall strategy, distribute money, and accomplish shared goals.

CDOT is committed to spend at least 2.5 percent of its construction budget on bike and pedestrian programs including infrastructure.

“Coloradans have put a high priority on providing choice in how they get from A to B, whether for commuting or for recreation, and cycling for many is a key alternative," said Shailen Bhatt, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation. “At CDOT we believe that including cycling plans into road planning and construction will help us reduce congestion and contribute to solving the transportation challenges facing the Colorado."

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests Lottery proceeds in Colorado's rivers, parks, open space, wildlife, and trails and has been the state's single largest funding source for trails.

“GOCO is excited to be a part of this new initiative and any opportunity to leverage funding to provide places for people to get outside from the backyard to the backcountry," said Lise Aangeenbrug, GOCO executive director.

Bicycle Colorado, one of the first statewide bicycle advocacy groups in the nation, and now the largest, encourages and promotes bicycling, increased safety, improved conditions and provides a voice for people who ride bicycles in Colorado.

“Bicycle Colorado is excited that more children, families and new cyclists will ride thanks to the improvements this funding will provide,” said Dan Grunig, Bicycle Colorado executive director. “Improved health and a stronger economy are other perks to come from this investment in better bicycling.”

Hickenlooper made the announcement at the Interbike Conference, the largest bicycle trade event in North America, bringing together manufacturers, retailers, industry advocates and media to conduct the business of cycling. He is the first governor to ever speak at the conference.

###

About GOCO
Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 4,500 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. For more information, visit goco.org.


About Bicycle Colorado
The mission of Bicycle Colorado, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is to encourage and promote bicycling, increase safety, improve conditions and provide a voice for bicyclists in Colorado. Incorporated in 1992, Bicycle Colorado has a sustained and successful history of protecting and improving access for bicyclists on Colorado roads, paths and trails. For more information, and to become a member, please visit bicyclecolorado.org


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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The arts community backs City for Champions

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2015 at 10:46 AM

Vick - EDIE ADELSTEIN
  • Edie Adelstein
  • Vick
Last night, to a packed house in Studio Bee, local arts leaders formally came out in support of City for Champions

Organized in part by COPPeR, the forum featured brief speeches from seven in the creative community, as well as COPPeR executive director Andy Vick: David Dahlin, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center; George Preston, general manager of Classical 88.7 KCME-FM; Jon Khoury, executive director of Cottonwood Center for the Arts; Marta Lacombe, 2015 Colorado South President, American Institute of Architects; Lara Holman Garritano, creative district manager at the Downtown Partnership; Nathan Newbrough, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic; and David Siegel, executive director of the Bee Vradenburg Foundation.

Their support for C4C ranged from a variety standpoints, varying from a simple 'What do we have to lose?' to more serious arguments. Newbrough, citing Colorado Springs' early artistic history, urged the audience not to "squander our inheritance," and that C4C, though not without risks, could lead to an entirely new local paradigm, if we choose to take advantage of it. "Idleness is not love," he said.
Dahlin - EDIE ADELSTEIN
  • Edie Adelstein
  • Dahlin

Dahlin called it a "once-in-a-generation opportunity," and Vick and Siegel pointed out the economic benefits (by way of recent Americans for the Arts studies) that the arts could have, piggy-backing off C4C. Each urged the early and often involvement of the arts in these planning processes, something that C4C spokeswoman Laura Neumann says is already happening, as the speakers have connected with the four C4C project managers for further planning.
Siegel - EDIE ADELSTEIN
  • Edie Adelstein
  • Siegel

Neumann said that this was the best crowd she'd seen yet at a C4C public event, and that this would be the last meeting for several months as planning goes forward.

It's not clear yet what arts involvement will look like for C4C, but Siegel was blunt: We can't just "slap a painting on the wall after the ribbon cutting and congratulate ourselves for [supporting] the arts."

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Big money: County apparently reels in the inheritance dollars.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 2:05 PM

When we're not busy fantasizing about winning the lottery, many of us turn to an old standby — the dream of inheriting a ton of cash from some distant relative.

I would guess that most El Paso County residents aren't inheriting fortunes from their great aunt Mildreds, but they are inheriting a lot of dough. So says a new study from financial software and data company SmartAsset. The company examined Colorado data on wealth transfers made during estate settlements and life insurance payouts, then ranked counties according to the amount of the annual inheritance

El Paso County made No. 3 in the state, though it's probably worth noting that we're the most populous county in the state.

The Top 10 counties are:

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Army coming to town, cuts on the horizon

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 4:18 PM

On Tuesday, Army brass breezes into town to conduct a "listening" meeting from 4 to 6 p.m. at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave., about possible budget cuts.

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
  • Department of Defense
The Regional Business Alliance is encouraging citizens to wear green in support of Fort Carson and show up and express support for the post.

Here's an email that went out earlier this week:
The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance Military Affairs Council (MAC) and the Army invite you to Wear green and support Fort Carson!
The Department of the Army is conducting a Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment and is attending listening sessions across the U.S. Find out how you can support Fort Carson in this process on the Business Alliance website, or read more below. Read full news release.
Keep-Carson-Strong_1-27-15.pdf  
Turns out, Colorado Springs is but one of 30 stops for the Army.  Others will take place in Georgia (Fort Benning, Fort Gordon, Fort Stewart), Texas (Fort Bliss, Fort Hood, Fort Sam Houston), Kentucky (Fort Knox and Fort Campbell), as well as at least 10 others states, reports pacifist Bill Sulzman.

His point?

"Sounds like the Army itself lobbying against any cuts by trying to orchestrate 'listening' sessions put on by boosters everywhere they can," he writes via email. "The Army is using taxpayer dollars to lobby locals to oppose any cuts in their area hoping this means that there won't be any cuts anywhere. Using government funds to lobby for more government funds. Military Industrial complex shenanigans."

We asked the Army to respond to Sulzman's impression, and got a long response, the upshot of which is that the Army is very interested in what local community folks think and that, surprisingly, not all communities support their installations.

According to Lt. Col. Don Peters, Team Chief, Operations, Intelligence and Logistics, Army Public Affairs at the Pentagon:
A Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment is necessary to meet the Army’s statutory obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq.) and to help inform stationing decisions and potential Congressional notification requirements under 10 U.S.C. § 993.

NEPA requires the Army to consider the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of its actions and proposed alternatives and to involve the public. The NEPA process provides Army decision-makers with information on the environmental and socioeconomic impact that may result from the realignment of Army units, to include the concerns of the public and stakeholder organizations. This analysis allows decision-makers to compare and contrast the environmental impact at sites proposed for unit restationing, force restructuring, and unit deactivations. The PEA process is also designed to inform the public of potential environmental and socioeconomic effects associated with the proposed action and to provide the public with an opportunity to provide feedback.

Environmental impacts associated with the implementation of the proposed action include impacts to air quality, cultural resources, biological resources, noise, soil erosion, wetlands, water resources, facilities, socioeconomics, energy demand, land use, hazardous materials and waste, and traffic and transportation.

While not required by law, the Army will conduct community listening sessions at the 30 installations that could potentially be affected by cuts. These sessions are designed to enable community members to provide their concerns and perspectives, and will help Army senior leaders to make informed, yet difficult, decisions regarding force structure changes. These are not question and answer sessions – we are there to hear the community’s voice, and we welcome anything participants have to say.

These listening sessions are in complete compliance with Federal Law, which specifically prohibits lobbying by Active Duty soldiers.
To add perspective, after the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Army built up to 570,000 soldiers. By September 2015, that number will be reduced to 490,000. Due to budget constraints, a further reduction to 450,000 is expected, and sequestration — automatic budget cuts built into a budgeting bill a few years ago — could cause yet another cut to 420,000

Meantime, Sulzman is trying to rally opposition to military expansion, notably its proposal to intensify use of the Pinon Canyon Manuever Site.

The RBA, on the other hand, is trying to combat any reductions, noting any cutbacks could have a devastating impact on the local economy.
 

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gov. Hickenlooper highlights the economy in speech at Antlers

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 5:33 PM

Hickenlooper has ideas to improve the Springs' economy. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Hickenlooper has ideas to improve the Springs' economy.
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s keynote address at the Antlers Hilton Hotel today focused on the economy, and ways the city can cooperate with the state to improve it.

“Pretty much in every national ranking Colorado is in the top two or three for job growth, business-friendly climate, regulatory environment, tax base — go down the list,” he said.

Hickenlooper noted that one of his first moves when he was elected to his first term was to have every state agency review its regulations. Over 13,000 regulations have been examined, and over half have been amended or eliminated. That has helped grow jobs, he says. But he noted Colorado Springs hasn’t seen as much of that growth — something he wants to address.

“We’re only strong when we are all strong,” he said.

While the state has recovered more quickly than Colorado Springs, Hickenlooper noted that the Springs is nevertheless performing better than many Western cities. A recent study by the Brookings Institute and the University of Nevada, he said, found that Colorado Springs posted the largest quarterly drop in unemployment in the country in the last quarter of 2014. Our unemployment rate, which stood at 5.1 percent in November, is also better than much of the nation. (Though not as good as the state’s which fell to 4 percent in December.)

What’s more, another study recently named Colorado Springs one of the top 10 cities for tech startups — it was one of four Colorado cities to rank. Between 1990 and 2010, Colorado Springs tech start-up activity doubled, Hickenlooper said. Other growth areas in the Springs include creative industries, exports and aerospace. He also noted that our high-end hotels are attractive for conferences, including a North American summit that he is hoping to bring to Colorado Springs.

The governor said the state was recently given a grant to advance research and technology in defense and aerospace, which could boost small and medium-sized businesses and create jobs in the Springs. He said the state is also looking at BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment), which could close or downsize Colorado military bases like Fort Carson. The governor’s office will lobby the general assembly to pass legislation addressing the BRAC, and has created a support office in hopes of keeping our bases intact.

The governor also had several ideas for growing the economy. For instance, he’d like to subsidize health insurance and office space with high-speed Internet for young workers. He’d then market the program near colleges, especially on the coasts, in hopes it would appeal to Millennials who are interested in being free agents rather than working for a large company. Such a program would be offered in conjunction with the city.

He also wants to offer free skills training to newly-hired workers who have been unemployed more than six months. That program would hopefully encourage businesses to hire long-term unemployed people. Hickenlooper said he would need the city’s partnership on the initiative and would have more information in a few weeks.

“We want to reach out to reach to businesses and say if you’re going to hire 10 people this year, we’d like one of them to be someone who’s been unemployed for more than six months.” he said.

On a side note, the governor said he was working to protect open spaces as the state continues to grow at a fast pace. He said he would like to work with the Springs to finish the Ring the Peak trail, and also connect long bike trails, including one that would stretch from Wyoming to New Mexico.

In closing, the governor said he hoped for cooperation from the legislature on divisive issues like fiscal constraints, highway infrastructure, oil and gas, and testing in schools. On the last, Hickenlooper said he was supportive of less testing, but that we need “rigorous” standardized tests of some kind. He said he believed the legislature was ready for compromise on many issues, and he that compromise will benefit the state.

“The bottom line is government’s got to work,” he said. 
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

State of the Region addresses good, bad news

Posted By on Thu, Dec 11, 2014 at 5:34 PM

Dennis Hisey - EL PASO COUNTY
  • El Paso County
  • Dennis Hisey
Board of El Paso County Commissioners Chair Dennis Hisey highlighted both the good and the bad in his State of the Region speech today, which was aptly named "The Glass is More than Half Full." 

The speech, as usual, didn't come with any groundbreaking announcements, instead offering a big picture look at what has changed in the region over the past year. On the good side, Hisey told the crowd at the Antler's Hilton:

• El Paso County sales and use tax collections are up 5.4 percent.
• New car registrations are up more than 10 percent.
• Unemployment in the region is down to 5.4 percent compared to 7.8 percent a year ago.
• Collections from Colorado Springs lodging and car rental tax are up more than 9 percent.

On the not-so-good side, he noted:

• Regional building reports the number of permits for new single family homes so far this year is down 5.5 percent.
• The total value of all building permits is down 18.7 percent compared to last year (though that's partially due to a drop in some government permits)
• The public trustee says foreclosures are down 3 percent from last year, but mortgage payoffs and default cures are down nearly 30 percent.
• The Department of Human Services reports that approximately 70,000 residents still qualify for food stamps each month.

But Hisey was eager to stress the good news.

He noted that stormwater improvements meant locals (or at least most locals) don't have to fear normal rain storms — only the biggies cause floods. Homeless service providers, he said, have banded together in a continuum of care which will allow them to better tailor services to the needy. And several organizations are considered El Paso County Enterprise Zone Projects — from Pikes Peak United Way to the Sports Corp to the Regional Business Alliance — meaning supporting those organizations can earn you a state income tax credit. The organizations are ones that are recognized as working to improve the economy. 

Hisey also said that he believed the Colorado Springs Airport was "on the verge of a big comeback," eliciting a guffaw from one of my table-mates. But Hisey went on to explain that the Commercial Aeronautics Zone, which helps businesses that are locating or expanding their businesses at the airport, has helped fill once-empty airport buildings. That, in turn, he said, helps reduce the costs of airport operations, bringing down costs for airlines. 

Hisey was excited about the opening of the Colorado Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), which helps small businesses score government contracts. He said it had helped more than 3,000 Colorado businesses last year to secure more than $900 million in contracts. And he noted that the Colorado Springs Technology Incubator had recently partnered with the Air Force Academy to help bring air force-developed technologies to other applications. 

He also expressed hope in the City for Champions project, which he said is making progress, and in the development of a future stormwater program.

A presentation of the 2014 State of the Region will soon be posted online on the County’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/ElPasoCountyCO.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Good news, bad news on mill levies

Posted By on Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 2:04 PM

Our economy is almost frozen in time at the moment. - STEVEN DEPOLO
  • Steven Depolo
  • Our economy is almost frozen in time at the moment.
Today, the El Paso County Assessor's Office is informing each taxing entity in the county the total valuation of all property in its taxation district. This figure is the one upon which property tax bills will be based that are issued in January.

For Colorado Springs and the County, it's a good news, bad news notification.

This year, the value of property in the city totals $4,636,060,080, compared to last year's total of $4,608,210,390.

That's an increase of $27.8 million, or less than 1 percent. The change represents new construction only. It does not include any change in value of existing property due to market fluctuations, because next year, not this year, is a reappraisal year for tax purposes.

The good news from those figures is that the city won't have to further reduce its property tax mill levy for next year's budget, because growth has been lower than the 5 percent limit imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. TABOR limits how much new revenue governments can collect.

Once a mill levy declines, the only way to make it go up again is with a vote of the people, due to TABOR's provisions. Twenty years ago, the city's mill levy was 6.869 mills. As property values rose and new construction resulted in the city collecting more revenue, TABOR, which became effective in the early 1990s, forced the city to reduce the mill levy.

Today, it stands at 4.279 mills, or 38 percent lower than 1994.

El Paso County is in the same boat. Last year, the county's valuation stood at $6,337,964,970. This year, it's $6,395,103,330. That's $57.1 million more this year than last, or just under 1 percent higher. 

The county's mill levy in 1994 was 12 mills. Today it stands at 7.714 mills, or 36 percent less than 20 years ago.

The bad news to all that is it's another indicator that our economy has stagnated.

But take heart. Assessor Mark Lowderman says the new reappraisal, which will affect tax bills mailed in January 2016, is showing some recovery. Residential property is running roughly 8 percent higher in value than the last reappraisal two years ago, and homes in some areas have gone up in value by up to 12 percent, he says.

"It looks like the single-family market is starting to recovery," he says.

But vacant land, commercial and industrial property remains flat, he adds.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Annexed tract will bring jobs, city says

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 5:38 PM

PHOTOLOGUE_NP
  • photologue_np
Colorado Springs City Council has approved the annexation of property for a manufacturer of oil and gas products and services, which will spark hiring, the city says in a news release.

As first reported by the Independent in early September, the company is headquartered in Switzerland and wants to expand its facilities here.

Here's the city's news release:

 Today City Council, on second reading, approved the annexation of the property located at 3445 Marksheffel Road which is home to one of the largest global providers of products and services for the oil and gas industries, Weatherford International. Weatherford sought the annexation to enable Colorado Springs Utilities to provide new and upgraded utility service necessitated by an expansion of its existing facility. The annexation will further enhance Weatherford’s expansion and the hiring of 84 manufacturing employees.

“We are grateful to Weatherford for making this investment in our community and for adding 84 quality manufacturing jobs to the city. This is a great example of collaboration among Weatherford, Colorado Springs Utilities, City Planning, City Economic Vitality, City Planning Commission, and City Council," said Mayor Steve Bach.

Headquartered in Switzerland, Weatherford International is one of the largest global providers of products and services that span the drilling, evaluation, completion, production and intervention cycles of oil and natural gas wells. It operates in more than 100 countries across the globe and employs more than 58,000 people. Weatherford International has operated in the Pikes Peak region since 2001 to manufacture piping to serve the oil and gas industry.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

UPDATE: C4C Downtown stadium: 10K or 8K seats?

Posted By on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 4:16 PM

c4clogo2.jpg
UPDATE: This just in from Bob Cope to explain things:

Regarding the seating for the indoor and outdoor venues at the Colorado Sports and Event Center, the resolution is simply allowing for some flexibility with the understanding that the final design will be determined based upon expert advice from a formally engaged professional design team.

The 13,000 total seating requirement is based upon the desire to have the necessary total capacity to accommodate the projected events and projected net new out of state visitors.

Appropriate parking is now a required element as part of the United States Olympic Museum. Under previous drafts, the 1,500 car parking facility was an eligible and approved improvement, but not required. This is simply a trade off by making the parking a required element but allowing for some flexibility in return.

———ORIGINAL POST OCT. 20, 2014, 3:51 P.M.———

The final resolution between the city and the state Economic Development Commission has been released.

In it, the state requires the outdoor downtown stadium to have at least 8,000 seats, and the indoor arena to have 2,000.

This is a decrease from the original resolution, which called for the outdoor venue to have 10,000 seats, and the indoor one, 3,000, for a total of 13,000.

The new resolution, oddly, still requires the combination to total 13,000.

Also, the original resolution said the city would build a 1,500-vehicle parking structure as part of the infrastructure upgrades in the southwest downtown area where the stadium and an Olympic Museum will be built.

The final resolution states "appropriate parking facilities."

We've asked Bob Cope with the city's economic vitality department to further explain. If and when we hear back, we'll update.

Meantime, here's the final resolution:

FinalSignedEDCResolution.pdf
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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Collecting federal help while living in the Broadmoor area

Posted By on Tue, Sep 30, 2014 at 11:29 AM

Funny, this doesn't look like the Broadmoor area. - EDMUND GARMAN
  • Edmund Garman
  • Funny, this doesn't look like the Broadmoor area.
How many farmers do you know who live in the Broadmoor area? Turns out, there are more than 400. At least that's how many individuals who give 80906 as their zip code are listed as recipients of farm subsidies from the federal government from 1995 to 2012.

Together, they've been paid $13.1 million during that 17-year period, according to the Environmental Working Group website, which tracks farm subsidies.

The top farmer is Jay W. Kriss Farms Inc., which has received nearly $1 million during that time from land in Kansas and Colorado, mostly Kansas. The biggest subsidies came from land in Thomas County, Kansas, which is in northwest Kansas. Colby is its county seat. And the corporation's subsidies were mostly for wheat.

But that's peanuts compared to the $280 million collected from 1995 to 2012 in the Finney County, Kansas, area — my old stomping grounds from many a year ago — by 2,793 different recipients. Interesting that this staunchly Republican county has received so much largesse from the big, bad, evil federal government. In fact, Kansas ranks sixth highest for farm subsidies at $16.4 billion, which makes Colorado's $5.4 billion look like chicken feed. 

According to EWG, here's the top 10 states ranked by money received:

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