Economy

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Olympic museum strikes deal with USOC

Posted By on Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 12:21 PM

Olympic Museum makes an important announcement.
  • Olympic Museum makes an important announcement.
The effort to build a U.S. Olympic Museum as part of City for Champions tourism venture has hit a milestone by reaching an agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee, museum backers said in a news release today.

In the release, Dick Celeste, who's heading the museum effort, says fund-raising will now begin in earnest, with hopes of raising $70 million in donations.

City for Champions is a tourism package that proposes to build four projects. Besides the museum, it would build a downtown stadium, sports medicine center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and a visitors center at the Air Force Academy. The state has agreed to allocate $120.5 million in state sales tax in the next 30 years to C4C; the money would come from 13.08 percent of the state tax collected beyond the baseline taxes collected as of December 2013. The rest of the money will come from donations and local sales taxes, officials have said.

We asked the museum folks whether the agreement with the USOC includes permission to use the logo and were told: "We are not at liberty to discuss specific terms of the agreement."

Here's the release:

The United States Olympic Museum announced today that it has signed a 30-year agreement with the United States Olympic Committee, renewable in 10-year increments.

Richard Celeste, President of the U.S. Olympic Museum Board of Directors, stated, “This agreement is the result of nearly two years of effort on the part of a group of dedicated citizens who share a vision of building a world-class museum dedicated to the values of the Olympic and Paralympic movements and the efforts and achievements of the U.S. athletes of the modern games. We are grateful to the leadership of the USOC for the confidence they have placed in us. We will strive to achieve the same level of excellence in the planned museum experience that characterizes the very best of our Olympians and Paralympians.”

The agreement acknowledges that the non-profit U.S. Olympic Museum was formed to develop, build, own and operate a state-of-the-art, iconic museum in downtown Colorado Springs to include:
1) A curated collection of historically significant artifacts associated with the United States’ participation in the Olympic and Paralympic Games
2) Interactive exhibits with video and audio presentations, facilities for temporary exhibitions and permanent collections relating to the U.S. and global Olympic and Paralympic movements to immerse visitors in the drama and exhilaration of Olympic and Paralympic competition, and capacity to host special celebrations and events
3) Home to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame dedicated to American athletes who have followed their dreams

Scott Blackmun, CEO of the USOC stated, “The agreement reached this week ensures that the U.S. Olympic Museum will be the type of world-class experience that fans of Team USA and the Olympic and Paralympic Games expect, and we’re pleased to contribute to the museum’s long-term success. I’d like to thank Dick Celeste for his tireless efforts on behalf of the museum and his continued commitment to making the Pikes Peak region an even better place to live and work.”

Celeste added, “With the signing of this agreement, the effort to raise the funding required to move forward will begin in earnest. Our goal is to secure at least $70 million in private donations in order to build an inspiring and extraordinarily dynamic venue. In the process, we believe this can significantly lift tourism visits to Colorado Springs, kick-start activity in the Southwest Urban Renewal Area, and ideally create a corridor that links downtown directly into America the Beautiful Park.”

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach stated, "This is a significant milestone in the process of building a United States Olympic Museum in Colorado Springs. I appreciate the efforts of the United States Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Museum Corporation in completing this agreement. We are proud to be the home of the USOC and a future Olympic Museum and we are truly becoming America’s Olympic City."


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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Privatizing: Is it really the way to go?

Posted By on Tue, Mar 11, 2014 at 10:58 AM

Snowplowing is one place the city is looking for savings by contracting service to private companies. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy city of Colorado Springs
  • Snowplowing is one place the city is looking for savings by contracting service to private companies.


Placing city services in the hands of contractors isn't always the deal it's cracked up to be.

That's the finding in a new study by Daphne Greenwood, professor of economics and director of the Colorado Center for Policy Studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Released today, the 43-page study explores the extent of social and economic impacts from outsourcing public services, including reduced accountability and transparency. In addition, quality often suffers, the study found.

From a news release about the study:
The study found that contracting with private corporations generally reduces worker wages and benefits, which leads to a host of negative effects for the community at large:

• Reduced spending in local communities and declining retail sales

• Risks to public health and safety with less experienced employees and more bureaucracy

• Fewer opportunities for middle-class jobs and upward mobility

• Higher wage gaps between men and women and blacks and whites

• More workers and retirees on public assistance, especially in female-headed households

• Larger share of “at risk” children in low-income families

To help leaders assess the full impacts of outsourcing decisions on their own communities, the report includes a guide for calculating the social and economic consequences to a state or community. Examples of statutes that address broader economic and social issues are included.
”There is a wealth of evidence that outsourcing public jobs often diminishes quality without substantial cost reduction," Greenwood says in the release. "Unfortunately, few states and cities have a serious oversight process to let citizens evaluate what is happening. Elected officials often talk about wanting to boost the economy and create opportunity. But many don’t realize how the decisions they control can contribute to the problem... or be part of the solution.”

The study was funded by the Jobs with Justice Education Fund, Washington, D.C. and is available here:
Greenwood_study.pdf
It's worth noting that one source cited in the study is the Independent's story ("Cold Comfort," Jan. 22, 2014) about the city's efforts to outsource snow plowing.

From the study:
Governments across the country are exploring more outsourcing based on long‐term pension obligations. Getting out of pension obligations is the reason city officials in Colorado Springs give for contracting out many services this year. Following a one year experiment in contracted snowplowing where audited costs were 489% higher than in areas the city plowed, the mayor’s office plans to expand the experiment and make it longer
term to get “enough data to analyze it.” All this, for some savings on pensions?
Greenwood goes on to note there's a cost to everyone for slashing pensions:
State and local governments need to keep the big picture in mind. Terminating or sharply reducing worker pensions will have a whole series of negative effects on local economies, well‐being and the sustainability of existing pension funds. The short‐term effects of eliminating or reducing pensions may appear quite small, since many workers will not be immediately affected. But the movement away from traditional ‘defined benefit’ pensions has already put more senior citizens at risk. 16.4% of older households without a defined benefit pension received food stamps, rent subsidies, energy assistance or supplemental social security (SSI), averaging $6,494 per household. This was over triple the rate (4.7%) of cash transfers for older households with a defined benefit pension.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Local businesses thrived on Small Business Saturday

Posted By on Tue, Dec 3, 2013 at 3:01 PM

Sparrow Hawk Cookware shows some love
  • Sparrow Hawk Cookware shows some love
For all you supporters of Small Business Saturday, your purchases did not go unnoticed. If you sought out an alternative to the Black Friday madness, you helped contribute to the $5.7 billion spent on the fourth annual Small Business Saturday. 

Local businesses like Sparrow Hawk Cookware gave a shout out on their Facebook page to all those who came out for the cause. All across the nation, this day has helped to "support the local businesses that create jobs, boost the economy and preserve neighborhoods," according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). 

With consumer awareness at 71 percent this year, a four percent jump from last year, businesses across the national saw a boost in both consumer traffic and sales, according to the 2013 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey. 

"We are very pleased that so many Americans sought to give back by shopping small this Small Business Saturday. We hope that support of small firms, retailers, restaurants and other independent businesses continues throughout the holiday season and all year round," says NFIB CEO Dan Danner in a press release. "Continued support of this vital sector is one important way to ensure our economy fully recovers and a healthy private sector is restored.”

So, to all those who spread the word via social media and came out to support local businesses such as Sparrow Hawk, among many others, the huge turnout shows that this small day is getting bigger each year. 
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

UPDATE: City for Champs gets a $22 million boost

Posted By on Tue, Nov 26, 2013 at 10:12 AM

UPDATE: The City for Champions folks released this statement regarding its application:

City for Champions is looking forward to the Dec. 4 presentation to the state’s Economic Development Commission and providing the commissioners information and analysis that demonstrate the positive impact of City for Champions for the state, city, county and region. The third-party analyst report by Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. (EPS) is a component in the Regional Tourism Act process, and the group’s input is helpful. In particular, our response to the EPS report gave us the opportunity to make a great application even better by adding context and detail about the Colorado Sports and Event Center and the UCCS Sports Medicine and Performance Center. Our application has become stronger through this process, and we are ready to make our case to the commissioners.


——————————————-ORIGINAL POST, TUESDAY, NOV. 26, 10:12 A.M.————————————————
The state's consultant reviewing the city's revised City for Champions application for state sales tax rebates has concluded the tourist package warrants $53.1 million over 30 years, a nearly 70 percent increase from the original finding of $31.4 million.

The new figures might engender hope among supporters of the application, though the $53.1 million is still far short of the total price tag of roughly $250 million.

The latest analysis by Economic & Planning Systems, Inc., says the city's four projects warrant these amounts of state sales tax rebates:

logo.png
U.S. Olympic museum: $28.3 million over 30 years, or $942,000 per year. (The initial analysis said the project was worthy of $20.8 million over 30 years.)

Downtown stadium and events center: $15.4 million over 30 years, or $512,000 per year. (Previous analysis concluded the project, then a baseball stadium, warranted only $3.8 million over 30 years.)

UCCS sports medicine center: $9.2 million over 30 years, or $307,000 a year. (EPS eliminated this project in its earlier analysis, saying it was too undeveloped to analyze fully.)

Air Force Academy visitors center: $260,870 over 30 years. (The earlier analysis awarded $6.8 million over 30 years.)

From the report:
No funding participation from the USAF has been identified, although the Application states that there are no federal funds available for this type of project, and as a result of military downsizing, this project would likely have a low priority. No funding commitments for the private funds have been identified, although it is noted that the USAFA Endowment is beginning an extensive capital campaign.

As for the downtown stadium, here's the consultant's take on the city's projection of events it could attract:

The Applicant’s consultants met with representatives from the National Governing Bodies (NGBs) in Colorado Springs and other sports management groups to estimate the number of annual events, athletes and other visitors (coaches, family/friends, spectators) that the proposed Colorado Sports Events Center (CSEC) could attract. Included in the Supplemental Material, an analysis by Summit Economics estimates 53 annual events as follows. The NGBs estimate that 9 new NGB-sponsored events could be brought to Colorado Springs, and 23 events could be brought back to Colorado that are currently held elsewhere. The Applicant would target an
additional 15 multisport organizations (a wide range of sporting activities) and other large national events averaging 6.2 per year considering that some may not come to Colorado Springs every year, and some are more competitive to attract. 
Within the “New Non-Olympic Events” category, the Applicant is assuming that major events such as the X Games and the Mountain Dew Tour will be recruited each year. These are highly competitive and sought after events.
The facility would also target sports conferences and gatherings estimated at an average of 3.6 events per year. Among all athletes, 80 percent are estimated to be from outside Colorado based on information from the NGBs, and 73 percent of accompanying coaches, trainers, family/friends/spectators, are from outside Colorado. 

On Page 74 of the report, EPS lays out financing plans for the museum as follows (note the fourth bullet):

The status of the Museum’s funding commitment and development readiness is summarized below, from information provided in the Original Application and in the Supplemental Material.
Nor’wood Development provided a letter to OEDIT indicating its “enthusiastic commitment to sell, lease, condominiumize or otherwise convey the property needed for these amazing anchor venues”. Earlier in the process, it was reported that Nor’wood owned the Museum site, and that the other required sites for the Stadium and Sports Events Center were not owned or controlled by the Project Team. The status of land ownership, options, or other commitments is not clear.
 The funding and financing plan does not contain any specific funding commitments from individuals, foundations, the USOC, or the City. The Application does contain letters of interest from two foundations, the Chapman Foundation and the El Pomar Foundation. Specific funding commitments are not made, but a high level of interest in receiving a funding request is stated.
 A letter from Mayor Steve Bach indicates the City’s intent to utilize its bonding capacity to fund a portion of the City for Champions projects.
 A letter from four of nine City Council members states that they do not support increasing the City’s indebtedness or committing increases in General Fund revenues or expenses to the Project without a vote from the citizens of Colorado Springs approving such financial commitments.
 A letter from the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority (CSURA) supporting the Application. The letter cites a Resolution that approves CSURA’s involvement in the City For Champions Project and its intention to utilize CSURA’s tax increment financing powers. The current Urban Renewal Plan estimates TIF capacity of $50 million in bonds. No documentation on the timing of these TIF revenues and bonding capacity was provided. TIF bonding capacity estimates are often based on real estate development projections which are highly uncertain. The CSURA is an arms-length independent agency of the City. Only one of CSURA Board Members is also on the City Council.
 RTA funds are assumed to provide the initial funding and financing source. The Applicant proposes to raise other public, private, and philanthropic funds after RTA funds are approved.
 An operating pro-forma was submitted rather than a project development pro-forma. A project development pro forma would include land and construction costs, estimates of other funding and financing sources, operating revenues, debt service, and the resulting funding/ financing gap for the project with and without the RTA funds. EPS therefore could not evaluate the project’s financial need given the uncertainties in the funding and cost assumptions.

For a rundown of the other projects funding outlook, go to Page 75 and 76 in the report:

Final_EPS_report.pdf
The city will present its proposal next week to the Economic Development Commission. A decision is expected later in December.
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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Meet Colorado's new logo

Posted By on Thu, Aug 29, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Making Colorado, an extension of the state's economic department, unveiled the product of its year-long process to create a new state logo and slogan, and here it is:

MAKING COLORADO
  • Making Colorado

The Indy first reported the undertaking back in April, when it was announced at the Colorado Creative Industries Summit back in April. The project sought graphic designers, youth ambassadors citizen reactions to build a new, copyrighted logo to be used in the tourism industry and state government affairs, such as vehicle emblems, letterheads, business cards and much more. Chief marketing officer Aaron Kennedy said at the time, "We can do it the easy way, which is, hire the New York place branding agency. The hard way to do it is, 'Made by Colorado for Colorado.' So we do it ourselves, and that’s the way we’re going to do it.”

Reaction so far has been mixed at best. On Making Colorado's Facebook page, the comments were pretty hot.

screen_shot_2013-08-29_at_10.20.51_am.png

screen_shot_2013-08-29_at_10.20.19_am.png

In today's Denver Post article on the subject, Colorado chief marketing officer Aaron Kennedy explained that the team decided against using the state flag or some iteration of the "C" because in a nation-wide study, most identified it with the city of Chicago.

Kennedy adds that the team expected some negative feedback, citing the Nike swoosh, which was at first disliked by the public. However, marketing expert Darrin Duber-Smith, who was consulted for the article, was completely unimpressed, telling the Post, "It looks like something my students could have put together in five minutes. It reminds me of a haz-mat symbol, or something you'd find on a construction hard hat. It's a very weak and non-creative effort."

What do you think?
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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Making Colorado seeks Youth Ambassadors

Posted By on Wed, May 8, 2013 at 5:33 PM

In an effort to effectively rebrand the state, Making Colorado isn't playing around. The initiative, launched just last month, wants to incorporate as much public input as possible. And in order to cast a wide net, it's enlisting the help of one high school junior from each of Colorado's 64 counties.

Each teen would be an ambassador of the program and keep their hometowns and county residents apprised of progress in the branding process. They'll publish information on MC on social media and also supply MC with a "multi-media story that showcases what makes their community special, which will be highlighted on the Making Colorado blog."

Making Colorado

These go-betweens will not only learn some valuable ombudsman-esque experience, but interact with the MC branding team through webinars happening this summer "to learn about marketing and social media strategy from some of Colorado’s top professionals in the industry." And a lucky few will be selected to serve on MC's Making Colorado Brand Council, where they'll learn from the pros firsthand.

Being a junior and a Colorado resident are the only stipulations, and you can nominate teens (or yourself, oh precocious one) easily through the MC website. Applications will be accepted through June 6.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

How the country sees us

Posted By on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 at 10:02 AM

So what if some of them think we're the second worst-dressed city in the country. We're also regularly ranked among the healthiest cities in the U.S., as well as the most churched.

Point being they can always say what they will, but we'll also be who we are — which is a lot of different things. So, here's just one more outside look at our diversity, from the military and outdoors to arts and culinary scene, via the Travel Channel:

Whatcha say? Not altogether unflattering, huh?

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

You can help design Colorado's brand

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Last week, we attended the Governor's Arts Award Luncheon at the Colorado Creative Industries Summit in Pueblo.

As you may already know, Pueblo, along with Aspen, each won the Governor's Art Award, a new and distinctive honor bestowed upon towns that have truly made a concerted effort toward funding and fostering creative development.

makingcolorado.gov

But more on that later. For now, the big announcement out of the luncheon is the search for graphic designers, copy writers and other creative types to help build a new, lasting Colorado brand. As it is, Colorado doesn't really have one — or maybe it does, but since no one knows what it is, it doesn't count — and, in order to become more competitive on the global market, attracting businesses, tourists and talent, we need it.

It's one of the five core goals outlined in the Colorado Blueprint, a state-wide economic development plan.

Because of that objective, GovernorJohn Hickenlooper hired Aaron Kennedy, an ad man who started Noodles & Company, as the state's chief marketing officer.

As Kennedy explained, the state had two options in building a new brand.

"We can do it the easy way, which is, hire the New York place branding agency," he said, adding he used to work for one. "The hard way to do it is, 'Made by Colorado for Colorado.' So we do it ourselves, and that’s the way we’re going to do it.”

That's where a creative team comes in. You can apply yourself, or nominate someone else for the job. Those who are chosen will work with Alex Bogusky and Dave Schiff, big names in the industry (Bogusky is the man behind Coca-Cola's polar bears and the anti-tobacco Truth campaign. Schiff launched Coke Zero in 2004. Both now work in Boulder for MadeMovement), who will oversee the project.

makingcolorado.gov

As the brand develops, Kennedy says that it will be vetted through the website, makingcolorado.gov, through surveys of citizens throughout the state, and other quantitative analyses both in and outside the Centennial State. Plus, an internal crew consisting of a brand advisory council and review board will review things. After all that, Kennedy will sit down with Hickenlooper and "fight it out."

They hope to launch the brand by the end of August.

“We want an engaging process that’s entertaining because we’d like to get a million people involved in this," Kennedy said, "from inside and outside Colorado.

"We want it to endure the test of time. We’re developing a brand that will hopefully not be replaced in three or four or five years. This is just really capturing the heart and soul of this place, and hopefully that won’t change much in the next 20 years.

"And we want to showcase the depth and strength of our creative community here, that’s a big part of why we’re doing it [this way.] And this concept of homegrown: Made by Colorado, for Colorado.”

Know someone? Know yourself? Sign up here.

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Monday, March 4, 2013

Oil and gas possibilities 'disappointing,' says Ultra

Posted By on Mon, Mar 4, 2013 at 2:56 PM

The petroleum that sits underneath El Paso County does not appear to present commercial possibilities. That's what Ultra Petroleum, which holds the majority of the approved permits for oil and gas drilling in El Paso County, had to say when it announced its results for the fourth quarter of 2012.

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Michael D. Watford, chairman, CEO and president, stated in an earnings call (registration required):

In Colorado's DJ Basin, our results in the Niobrara have been disappointing. Although our core and log data indicate the presence of oil in the rocks, the petroleum system is immature, under-pressured and not commercial. This has been verified by completion of test results from both a vertical and a horizontal well. Ultra assembled 139,000 low-cost acres and deployed it over the past 2 years and has no significant lease expirations until 2014. We'll continue to monitor industry activity in the region but have no immediate plans for additional exploration in the area.

In Ultra's annual report for 2012 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company stated:

In eastern Colorado, at December 31, 2012, the Company owned interests in approximately 154,000 gross (139,000 net) acres. The Company has no immediate plans for further exploration in this area.

...

In Colorado, our oil and gas leases are from private individuals and companies, as well as from the State of Colorado, and typically have primary lease terms of five years. All of our acreage in Colorado is undeveloped at this time, and the Company has no immediate plans for further exploration in this area.

...

The Company does not believe the remaining terms of its leases is material. At December 31, 2012, the Company had 12,245 net acres of leases in Pennsylvania, 2,000 net acres of leases in Colorado and no leases in Wyoming that expire in 2013 and it expects to maintain over 20% of those leases by production, operations, extensions or renewals. The Company does not expect to lose material lease acreage because of failure to drill due to inadequate capital, equipment or personnel. The Company has, based on its evaluation of prospective economics, allowed acreage to expire and it may allow additional acreage to expire in the future.

Hilcorp Energy Company also has active permits in the county.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Kickstarter shares impressive 2012 fundraising figures

Posted By on Tue, Jan 8, 2013 at 4:59 PM

Consider this somewhat of an update to my November cover story on local crowdfunding efforts.

In that feature, I'd taken a look at a handful of area film projects that were using online crowdfunding platforms to raise money — Kickstarter chief among them.

Today, I received this creative overview of 2012 fundraising efforts on Kickstarter from one of its representatives, Justin Kazmark.

kickstarter

He wrote:
2012 was incredible year for Kickstarter and for the creators and backers who came together to bring so many creative projects to life. To celebrate, we just published a retrospective exploring some of the most imaginative projects and best moments from the last 12 months.

Just the second page of the slideshow, on overall revenues, is impressive, with more than $300 million pledged by more than two million people.

More relative to my story, it was interesting to learn that 10 percent of films at Sundance are Kickstarter-funded; one called Incident in New Baghdad was nominated for an Oscar; and apparently 63 Kickstarter-funded films opened in theaters.

I highly recommend flipping through to find an abundance of other cool stats. Even in a crap economy, it seems donors worldwide aren't too stingy with their money at all.

P.S. Kickstarter is hiring.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Cloud City" coming to Green Mountain Falls

Posted By on Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 5:15 PM

Today, the Colorado Springs Business Journal released an article outlining the relationship between the town of Green Mountain Falls and Christian Keesee, chairman of Kirkpatrick Bank and Kirkpatrick Oil Co.

The last several years, we've covered one of Keesee's donations to the town, the Green Box Arts Festival, in which artists, performers, musicians and the like gather to install artwork, perform and give classes. Sadly, this year's fest was canceled due to the Waldo Canyon Fire.

In happier news, Keesee is planning to bring a piece from his personal art collection to GMF next summer. The installation, called "Cloud City" by Tomás Saraceno, is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Visitors walk through a series of geometric modules outfitted with mirrors, glass and other reflective materials to showcase the city skyline (watch a slideshow of its installation here). One can imagine it's something akin to Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate," Chicago's "silver bean" sculpture in Millenium Park that lovingly reflects the skyscrapers.

Saracenos Cloud City
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Saraceno's "Cloud City"

Thus, "Cloud City" could mean a lot of attention for GMF. As the CSBJ piece goes, "Cloud City could bring thousands of visitors to Green Mountain Falls, [Chris Frandina, town clerk and treasurer] said. No one, she added, is nervous about the quiet town being discovered."

Keesee has invested even more in the town through his foundation, converting dilapidated parts into functioning ventures, including hotels, artist studios and even purchasing open space to preserve the trail system there. Read more about it, and Keesee, here.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Update: COPPeR to discuss arts and economics

Posted By on Mon, Jun 25, 2012 at 10:41 AM

McGrath says the briefing will now be held Tues., July 17 from 8-10 a.m., with the presentation starting at 8:30 a.m.

——- UPDATED POST, MONDAY, 9:42 A.M. ——-

COPPeR's briefing has been postponed due to the Waldo Canyon Fire, says executive director Christina McGrath. It will be rescheduled for sometime in July.

——- ORIGINAL POST, FRIDAY, 2:45 P.M. ——-

Arts endeavors in the Pikes Peak region generate more than 2,000 jobs for the local economy and $72 million in direct economic activity, according to the newly released Arts & Economic Prosperity IV.

The study is a detailed, national analysis of how the arts impact the financial health of 182 communities across the U.S., the Pikes Peak region being one (thanks to the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region). A project of Americans for the Arts, AEP IV calculates attendance, dollars spent, jobs supported and tax revenues produced by arts organizations and uses those to estimate the nation overall. A nifty AEP IV Calculator online allows interested parties to estimate their own arts economic impact.

Happily, the arts are "resilient" in an otherwise down economy, writes Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts on the Huffington Post.

Of the $135.2 billion of economic activity generated by America's arts industry, $61.1 billion comes from the nation's nonprofit arts and culture organizations and $74.1 billion from event-related expenditures by their audiences. This economic activity supports 4.1 million full-time jobs and produces $22.3 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments every year — a yield well beyond their collective $4 billion in arts allocations.

These numbers are remarkable, especially considering the economic climate in 2010, when the study was conducted. Unemployment was at 9.7 percent in 2010 — more than double the rate from when "Arts & Economic Prosperity III" was conducted in 2005.

Economic_20Impact.jpeg
  • Arts & Economic Prosperity IV

You can see summary data specific to our region here. However, to get a more contextualized reading, attend COPPeR's briefing of the report from 8 to 10 a.m., next Tuesday, June 26, at the Mining Exchange, A Wyndham Grand Hotel. RSVP at rsvp@coppercolo.org or 634-2204.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

No glee for teen summer-job seekers

Posted By on Fri, Jun 15, 2012 at 3:29 PM

jobs_.jpg

American teens will face challenges in finding jobs this summer, an analysis of the May 2012 Census Bureau data shows.

The study conducted by the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) finds that teen unemployment has been steady above 20 percent for more than three years, yet above 25 percent for as many as 18 states, including Colorado, and the District of Columbia. The national average is currently 24.6 percent.

May 2012 data show Colorado ranking 11th in the list of states with high unemployment rates, at 28.6 percent. DC and California top the list with, respectively, 52.1 and 35.6 percent.

Researchers at EPI say the burden has pushed minimum-wage increase proposals in Rhode Island, Michigan, Massachusetts, Illinois, New Jersey and New York. On the federal level, two proposals have been introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., aimed at raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to approximately $10 an hour.

“Policymakers should be cautious of passing new legislation, such as misguided minimum wage hikes, that makes it even more difficult for vulnerable teens to find a job,” says Michael Saltsman, research fellow at EPI. “The first day of summer is almost here, but there’s still no guarantee of a summer job for the nation’s teens.”

A summer job for teens doesn’t just mean money. It's an opportunity for young people to get trained for the skills they need to be successful in their lives.

“Missing out on job experience now can have a lasting effect on earnings and employability. As we head in to the summer of 2012, states should avoid building more barriers between young adults and this invaluable experience,” Saltsman concluded.

According to economists at Miami and Trinity Universities, 114,000 fewer teens had jobs following the last federal minimum wage increase between 2007 and 2009.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Despite AS220 success, not all rosy in Providence

Posted By on Mon, May 28, 2012 at 11:05 AM

38 Studios

When we wrote about the revival of downtown Providence, R.I. — a feat helped largely by arts organization AS220 — one of the successes we documented was the establishment of video game company 38 Studios.

38 Studios, founded by former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, had set up shop right across the street from one of AS220's three buildings and symbolized Providence's success in attracting multimillion-dollar businesses to its formerly troubled downtown. The state had offered the company a $75 million loan guarantee to move there in 2010, which "officials said would bring jobs and tax revenue," the New York Times reported last week.

The reason why it's in the news now? 38 Studios was late on last month's payment of $1.1 million to the state economic development agency. Worse, it's laid off its entire 400-person staff.

Perhaps worse still is that the state of Rhode Island is now responsible for part of 38's debt, according to an article posted today by CNNMoney. The cash-strapped state now owes $112 million in loan principal, interest and fees, and taxpayers have little chance of making up even a quarter of their potential losses.

The article points to evidence that the entire enterprise was flawed from the beginning. Despite good intentions of attracting jobs and setting up a skilled technology business with the hopes of attracting others, 38 struggled both internally and externally. Those outside the company feel the state didn't do its due diligence in the deal, either. The article says that nearly all the members of board of directors for the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation have resigned or asked to not be reinstated when their terms end.

"I think Rhode Island was star-struck by Curt Schilling," says Alexander Sliwinski, news editor for the video game site Joystiq. "You didn't see Rhode Island give Harmonix, Irrational, Turbine — all companies with established track records — $75 million to move."

Though analysts estimate 38 Studios is worth about $20 million, its staff (cut with no pay) is where the value of the company lies, intellectual property and half-finished products aside. It's expected that the state will sell all the assets to Electronic Arts.

Forbes, however, sees a silver lining in the fallout. Per an article published Saturday, often the death of a large video game company can prove to be fertile ground for other smaller companies to grow.

The message for state governments looking to boost their economies is to make themselves attractive as a place for games companies to set up. The trick is to achieve a critical mass of developers under your roof, so even if games companies go under, new ones will arise and take root in your soil.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gas rates take a dive, water on the rise

Posted By on Tue, May 22, 2012 at 5:04 PM

If you're a typical utility user, your monthly bill will go down by $2.10 a month — almost enough for a foo foo coffee drink — starting in June due to rate changes approved today by the Colorado Springs City Council.

The dip is largely due to the continuing low cost of natural gas, as shown in this graphic from ycharts.com showing a history of natural gas prices since 2007.

Colorado Springs Utilities rates natural gas prices
  • Henry Hub Natural Gas Spot Price Chart.

The Colorado Springs Utilities press release talking about the decrease is below, along with mention of what lies ahead for water rates, which for the typical residential user would go up by $11.03 by January 2014 — not as bad as it could have been — under a proposal unveiled today. Utilities officials have said that future rate increases beyond that date, at one time envisioned to be 12 percent annually through 2016, will be small or non-existent.

Higher water rates are necessary to fund the $1.6 billion (including borrowing costs) Southern Delivery System, a pipeline that will increase the city's water supply by a third by bringing water from Pueblo Reservoir by 2016.

The typical residential energy bill will be reduced by $2.10 a month based on 600 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electric use and 60 CCF (hundred cubic feet) of natural gas use. This is the second gas cost adjustment decrease this year.

Also at today's City Council meeting, Colorado Springs Utilities formally proposed changes to water rates for 2013 and 2014 and requested a public hearing June 26 at City Hall. Additional funding is needed to continue construction of the Southern Delivery water project and to pay for critical maintenance and repairs of the existing water system.

Due to low interest rates, favorable construction market conditions and efficient project management, the proposed rate increases are lower than the 12 percent annual changes expected when the project was approved in 2009. If the new rates are approved by City Council, the typical residential water bill would rise by $5.04 (10.9 percent) in January 2013 and by $5.99 (11.7 percent) in January 2014. Tap water currently costs about six-tenths of a cent per gallon, increasing to about three-quarters of a cent per gallon if the rates are approved. The typical customer uses 8,228 gallons per month. See rate case details at csu.org.

The lower SDS project costs should result in smaller water bill increases in the future as well. Planned rate changes for 2015 and 2016 are likely to be much lower than the projected 12 percent and may be eliminated altogether.

City Council today also approved a measure to lower the cost for non-profit groups to obtain water service for the purpose of community gardening. The number of formally established community gardens has grown from three in 2007 to more than 20 today.

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