To the recession, that is. With the announcement Tuesday that a California medical equipment company will build a new facility here and hire more than 200 people in the next several years, and now another announcement that ACS, a Xerox company, plans to hire 225 for its call center, we're finally gaining jobs.
Bal Seal Engineering, which employs 39 here already, will build a 137,000-square-foot plant at Voyager Parkway and Republic Drive, and hire 211 employees within five years, the Gazette reported.
Here's the ACS press release:
ACS, A Xerox Company, is planning to hire 225 people for its call center operations in Colorado Springs. Positions include call center agents and supervisory positions.
ACS is expanding its current workforce in the region to supply customer service and technical support for a Fortune 500 client. Applicants are encouraged to apply on-line athttp://www.acs-inc.com or visit the ACS recruiting office at 2424 Garden of the Gods, Suite D-3, during business hours.
ACS is an award winning leader in the call center outsourcing industry, providing quality service to clients for more than 20 years. With more than 34,000 agents in 150 call centers around the world, ACS employees handle in excess of one million customer interactions every day in 20 different languages.
ACS and Xerox employ approximately 1,600 people in Colorado.
On Friday afternoon, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs announced that with a $4 million gift, it will construct a building for its students in health-related studies, and also for aging adults.
The gift comes from John E. and Margaret L. Lane Foundation and Margot Lane, and will allow for an estimated 56,000-square-foot structure to go up on North Nevada Avenue, between Austin Bluffs Parkway and the Four Diamonds Sports Complex.
Here's the full release, which also mentions how Peak Vista Community Health Centers will be involved:
$4 million gift to spur UCCS academic health sciences building
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The John E. and Margaret L. Lane Foundation and Margot Lane of Colorado Springs will donate $4 million to the University of Colorado Colorado Springs and Peak Vista Community Health Centers to build an academic health sciences building on North Nevada Avenue.
The building, which will integrate primary healthcare services for aging adults with UCCS academic programs, will be named the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences in the Lanes’ honor.
Construction of the estimated 56,000-square foot building is scheduled to begin in late summer 2012. It will be located on UCCS property on the east side of North Nevada Avenue and north of the university’s monument sign at the intersection of North Nevada Avenue and Austin Bluffs Parkway. The site is now a parking lot.
“We are deeply appreciative of Margot Lane’s generous support of the university and this community-wide effort to improve healthcare,” UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said. “An academic health sciences building on North Nevada will improve healthcare access and integrate it with university faculty and researchers who seek to improve lives.”
Plans call for Peak Vista Community Health Centers to partner in the efforts by owning a portion of the building and using it to house a Senior Health Center which will also be named in honor of the Lane family. A community mainstay since 1971, Peak Vista now operates 19 health centers throughout the Pikes Peak Region including numerous family health centers, two senior health centers, school-based programs, and specialized health centers for homeless, women’s, pediatrics, after hours care, and developmental disabilities.
“Peak Vista is humbled by the generosity of Margot Lane who has supported several Peak Vista projects over the years. Margot’s passion and excitement to be involved in an innovative service model for seniors in our community is an investment that goes beyond the dollars and challenges us to further define a quality long term solution for our future that is demonstrated through our partnership with UCCS and strategic thinking,” said Pam McManus, president and CEO, Peak Vista Community Health Centers,and BJ Scott, executive director, Peak Vista Community Health Centers Foundation, in a joint statement.
In September, the CU Board of Regents approved the first phase of plans for an academic health sciences building on the east side of North Nevada Avenue and south of the current Four Diamonds Sports Complex. The first phase provides space for UCCS programs such as the CU Aging Center, Gerontology Center, and Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences, as well as the university’s unique doctoral program specializing in the psychological needs of seniors. The site was chosen because of its convenient access to the main UCCS campus as well as its central location for community members and patients and its access to I-25. Future phases will include additional buildings.
“Our family loves this community and it is a privilege to be able to give back to Colorado Springs in this significant way,” Margot Lane said. “The importance of UCCS and Peak Vista in this community is tremendous. It is our hope that this collaboration will be a model for other universities and non-profits around the country.”
About the John E. and Margaret L. Lane Foundation
Founded in 1997 by John E. Lane and Margaret L. Lane to support charities in Arizona and Colorado, the foundation’s motto is “turning success into significance.”
About Peak Vista Community Health Centers
Peak Vista Community Health Centers is a non-profit organization whose mission is “to provide exceptional healthcare for people facing access barriers.” Established in 1971, Peak Vista annually offers primary medical, dental, and behavioral health services to more than 65,000 El Paso and Teller residents most from working families without health insurance. To learn more about Peak Vista, visit www.peakvista.org.
UCCS, located on Austin Bluffs Parkway in Colorado Springs, is one of the fastest growing universities in the nation. The university offers 36 bachelor’s degrees, 19 master’s and five doctoral degrees. The campus enrolls more than 9,300 students.
Can you say "hot"?
As noted in my article "Complex Equation" last week, the apartment market is booming these days. And it doesn't look to be slowing down. It was just announced that Colorado Springs apartment rents hit an all-time high in the third quarter of 2011. Average rent is now $778 a month. Ouch.
Colorado Springs apartment rents hit all-time high, climb 6.7 percent
The average rent in the Colorado Springs metro area hit a new high during the third quarter of 2011, climbing 6.7 percent, year over year, to $778. According to a new report on apartment rents and vacancies, released today by the Colorado Division of Housing and the Apartment Association of Southern Colorado, the average rent for the region was up from $729 reported during the third quarter of 2010, and was up from 2011’s second-quarter average rent of $759.
The median rent also hit an all-time high of $752 during the third quarter, rising 7.4 percent from 2010’s third-quarter median rent of $700.
The average rent increased in all types of apartments measured, including all types of units from efficiency apartments to three-bedroom apartments.
The average rent also increased in all sub-markets measured during the third quarter except in Northeast Colorado Springs where the average rent dropped from $749 to $741, year over year. The average rent in the Southeast region of Colorado Springs, on the other hand, increased 87 dollars from $605 during last year’s third quarter, to $692 during the same period this year.
“This is some of the most solid rent growth we’ve seen in years, said Ron Throupe, an assistant professor of business at the University of Denver, and the report’s author. “The third quarter showed the largest year-over-year increase in the metro-wide rent in ten years, and it was also the seventh quarter in a row for year-over-year growth.”
Average rents for all market areas were: Northwest, $849; Northeast, $741; Far Northeast, $909, Southeast, $692; Security/Widefield/Fountain, $613; Southwest, $790; Central, $718.
The apartment vacancy rate in the Colorado Springs metro area fell to 6.2 percent during the third quarter of 2011, falling from 2010’s third-quarter vacancy rate of 6.6 percent. The third-quarter rate also fell from this year’s second-quarter rate which was 6.4 percent.
The vacancy rate declined in the Northeast, Southeast, Security/Widefield/Fountain and Southwest areas of Colorado Springs, while the vacancy rate increased in the Northwest, Far Northeast, and Central areas.
“The vacancy rate is at the second-lowest rate recorded in the last ten years, and it’s the lowest third-quarter vacancy rate since 2001,” said Ryan McMaken, a spokesman for the Colorado Division of Housing. “A lack of new multifamily construction in recent years is likely to encourage the rate to fall even more, but it looks like the industry is beginning to respond. Given the rent growth, it’s not surprising that El Paso County is among the counties with the most new multifamily building permits issued this year.”
Vacancy rates for all market areas were: Northwest, 5.6 percent; Northeast, 4.6 percent; Far Northeast, 7.1 percent, Southeast, 8.0 percent; Security/Widefield/Fountain, 10.7 percent; Southwest, 5.6 percent; Central, 6.2 percent.
Apartment Realty Advisors is also a major sponsor of this report. The Vacancy and Rent Surveys are a service provided by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs’ Colorado Division of Housing and the Apartment Association of Southern Colorado to renters and the multi-family housing industry on a quarterly basis. The Colorado Springs Area Vacancy and Rent Survey reports averages and, as a result, there are often differences in rental and vacancy rates by size, location, age of building, and apartment type. For more information, please see the Division of Housing’s economics blog at www.divisionofhousing.com.
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It's a difficult time to get a job, no matter who you are. But it's especially difficult if you happen to be a minority, or young.
While the national unemployment rate for white Americans was 8.1 percent in July, it was 15.9 percent for black Americans. Hispanics also hold jobs at lower rates than whites.
Young people aren't doing any better. In July, only 59.5 percent of youths (ages 16 to 24) had a job; that's the lowest July rate on record.
So what are young people of color supposed to do in this economy? Well, as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, health care looks to be a good bet for a future career.
A medical career fair specifically geared toward minorities aims to help interested people learn more about careers in medicine. The good news? It's not until November, so there's plenty of time to plan ahead.
Check out the flier for more information: Career_Poster_Final_2011.pdf
Last Wednesday, a group of protesters showed up outside U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn's Colorado Springs office in the hopes of attracting the Republican to their way of thinking. They had along with them a treatise that offered the 10 Critical Steps to Get Our Economy Back on Track, as imagined by the coalition the Contract for the American Dream.
The protest was civil, and after a while, a number of them were brought into Lamborn's conference room to meet with his district director, Dan Nordberg.
apparently went about how you'd expect it to go. While both sides could agree that there needs to be something done about job creation, and to make the tax code more equitable — no one, not even Nordberg, could defend a massive corporation such as GE not paying income taxes — the methods to correct these issues were not simply not something that was going to be decided upon at that conference table.
Ideological disagreements aside, Nordberg is just a messenger.
But this meeting did provide the opportunity for Chuck Bader, vice president of Colorado AFL-CIO, to pass along some info on existing legislation that he believes Lamborn ought to read, consider, and then support. Nordberg has since passed the list onto Lamborn's legislative director and told me that he would provide the Indy with a response, if and when there is one.
After the jump are those pieces of legislation.
This missive comes from El Paso County Public Trustee Tom Mowle, who's reporting that foreclosures again fell below previous levels in July. He's now predicting a 31 percent decline in foreclosure starts for 2011.
Maybe the economy, at least, isn't getting any worse. Or, all the people who are in dire straits have already lost their homes, so there aren't any more for the banks to foreclose on. But Mowle has his own theory as explained below, which isn't a bright reflection on the local economy.
Mowle will report to the Board of County Commissioners on Thursday. Here's his release:
As part of my budget update for El Paso County, I am projecting 3303 foreclosure starts for the year, which would be a 31% drop from last year and the lowest total since 2006. That number was based on an average of 260 foreclosure starts per month in the last 6 months of the year — with only 238 starts in July, that estimate already looks like it may be high.
Likewise, in that budget update I projected 34,641 releases for the year, which would be just ahead of last year’s low total. This was based on releases recovering to about 3,000 per month for the last 6 months of the year — and here again, the estimate already looks high as we only released 2312 deeds in July.
The number of projected releases is approximately the 35,000 that we placed in the 2011 budget, so there is little impact on revenues. We anticipated that private-party home sales would remain low this year — and even into next year — due to the large number of homes still in foreclosure or bank-owned.
On the other hand, the number of foreclosure starts is well under the 4500 we placed in the 2011 budget. Since we book most of the foreclosure revenue when the file is closed (sold or withdrawn), there has so far been little impact on revenues here, either. Through the 2nd Quarter, in fact, the office is 5.8% ahead of budgeted revenues for the year. We do expect, however, that revenues will decline in the final 2 quarters.
This persistent drop in foreclosure starts — notable both for the suddenness of the drop from January to February and then the stability of the monthly numbers since then — appears to be a lasting legacy of the “robosigning” investigation from last October. As part of the agreement the banks have reached with regulators, banks are discouraged from double-tracking people in default. Thus banks seem to be working with borrowers before the foreclosure is filed, rather than after, which is delaying the start of those foreclosures. This means that to some extent we are probably seeing a delay in foreclosures rather than a decline, but that delay also allows people to sell or obtain additional income and work out a loan modification and avoid going into foreclosure altogether. It also means, however, that a greater proportion of the foreclosures that have started this year will result in a sale at auction. The percentage of properties sold at the first opportunity has been sharply up in the last couple of months, while the number withdrawn or cured is down.
On the expense side, we are working to bring down costs where they are controllable. We have reduced costs for office supplies, equipment rental, and personnel from what they had been, and this savings will continue into next year. Our 2012 budget for personnel and other expenses is down 18% from this year, compared to an anticipated 11% drop in revenue.
How does an art gallery survive the recession? Well, a framing component helps. And so do corporate and government contracts. Those are some of the ways Boulder Street Gallery stays strong in a swooning economy.
Earlier this month, Monica Mendoza of the Colorado Springs Business Journal reported on Boulder Street's strategy for staying out of the jaws of the recession. (A subscription's required to read the entire article.) Interestingly, it didn't have much to do with wealthy, private patrons.
While the article notes that custom framing comprises about 70 percent of their total revenue, Terry and Jennie Henderson also secured a place on the government's General Services Administration Federal Supply Schedule Contractor list, which means they can bid on government contracts and get their gallery art in secure places like Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases and even the headquarters building of the U.S. Northern Command.
Back in the private sector, the Hendersons have a project with the new Mining Exchange, A Wyndham Grand Hotel, a $50,000 job that will put about 250 pieces of art in the hotel lobby and rooms.
Today, the Associated Press is reporting that 78 criminal undocumented immigrants have been arrested in a sweep of Colorado. These weren't your run-of-the-mill immigrants, according to the article. These were convicted criminals hiding out in this country.
ICE officials said the goal was to arrest convicted criminal aliens and track down fugitives who were taking advantage of the U.S. immigration system.
Okey-doke. Sounds good. Yet stories like these always prompt the comments, which are beginning to trickle in, conflating these allegedly dangerous criminals to the workaday undocumented immigrants that our economy needs in order to function.
The two are not the same, whether or not they are here legally. One could be a productive member of our society, if we'd just allow that to occur, and another is not — at the moment — a productive member of any society.
Case in point: Last week in Georgia, the impact of thousands of undocumented immigrants fleeing that state under a strict new law was being felt in a predictable way.
See Jay Bookman's post at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for the cautionary tale of what happens when government jumps to an extreme solution:
After enacting House Bill 87, a law designed to drive illegal immigrants out of Georgia, state officials appear shocked to discover that HB 87 is, well, driving a lot of illegal immigrants out of Georgia.
It might be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
Thanks to the resulting labor shortage, Georgia farmers have been forced to leave millions of dollars’ worth of blueberries, onions, melons and other crops unharvested and rotting in the fields. It has also put state officials into something of a panic at the damage they’ve done to Georgia’s largest industry.
What rough beast will Colorado Republicans worship if TABOR is struck down by the courts?
Twenty years ago Douglas Bruce, a determined California transplant, persuaded a slim majority of Colorado voters to approve a sweeping constitutional amendment that he had cleverly titled the “Taxpayers Bill of Rights.”
Most Republican elected officials secretly despise TABOR and its author, but few publicly oppose it. To do so is political suicide, since the ultra-conservatives who dominate Republican caucuses and primaries see TABOR as holy writ, and its author as a visionary whose personal peccadilloes are of little consequence.
Democrats and many unaffiliated voters dislike it. In jurisdictions without strong Republican majorities, local governments have successfully exempted themselves from TABOR’s most onerous provisions — but state government has remained largely under its sway.
The consequence, according to a suit filed yesterday in federal court by several dozen present and former elected officials, is that the state is no longer governed by the Legislature, but by the automatic and often malign mandates of TABOR.
The lawsuit claims that TABOR’s core, which forbids the Legislature from raising taxes, or even making most revenue-neutral changes in tax laws, blatantly violates the United States Constitution.
Article four, Section four of the Constitution:
“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government …”
Merriam-Webster defines a Republican form of government as “A government in which supreme power is held by the citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives governing according to law; also: a nation or other political unit having such a form of government.”
That’s not Colorado, where supreme power is held by unelected promoters of successful initiatives.
This is a serious lawsuit, apparently well-financed, and includes as plaintiffs some very serious people. Among them: present and former Colorado Springs legislators John Morse, Mike Merrifield and Marcy Morrison, former state Sen. Norma Anderson (R-Lakewood) and State Rep. Lois Court (D-Denver).
The suit is a frontal attack aimed not only at TABOR, but at initiated legislative mandates in all the states that permit such measures. If the plaintiffs prevail in their action, you can probably say goodbye not only to TABOR, but to Amendment 23 (which mandates increased funding for K-12 education) and to the Gallagher amendment (which mandates a fixed ratio of property tax collections between commercial and residential properties).
Will the courts overturn TABOR?
It’s not as far-fetched as it might seem. While I’m no lawyer, it has always been obvious that many judges are notably unsympathetic to TABOR and its eccentric author. Given a powerful constitutional reason to junk it, the federal judges who will hear the case might vote to overturn — and if so, it would certainly end up before the Supreme Court.
The case would put the 5-4 conservative majority of the Roberts court in a delicious bind. They’ve labeled their radical, often blatantly partisan agenda as one driven solely by Constitutional originalism. In other words, what did the Founders actually intend?
To rule correctly, one need only study and understand the Constitution.
In this case, the language of the Constitution couldn’t be clearer. Direct democracy would have horrified the authors of the Constitution, who, as the Federalist papers remind us, sought to shield elected officials from the passions of transient majorities. Direct democracy, as we have come to know it in Colorado, would scarcely have met with their approval.
So come about 2016, when we can expect the case to be heard by the Supremes, what will the august conservative majority do?
Will they cling to their principles, toss out TABOR and nullify the achievements of generations of right-wing activists? Or will they conveniently discard their principles, and leave the Dougster’s mischievous monument in place?
We’ll see. But when ideology conflicts with the Constitution, the justices usually leave the hallowed document bleeding on the floor.
Remember Bush v. Gore?
This week's cover story is a piece that reporter David Cay Johnston wrote for the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, of which the Indy is a member. One of the other altweeklies publishing the story today is Detroit's Metro Times, which has made available a nice audio complement to the print piece.
Below is an interview that Johnston did with Detroit Public Radio yesterday. The Times ran a different headline, as you'll hear, but the story itself is the same — and timely not only because of the April 18 tax deadline, but also because of President Obama's speech shortly after this interview.
Taking a look back, the Colorado Center on Law and Policy analyzed what's happened in the last decade in a new report called "State of Working Colorado 2010."
If it makes you feel better, Colorado isn't as bad off as some states, but that doesn't mean things haven't gotten worse in the last 10 years.
Here's a dose of what the study found:
*Employment: At the end of 2010, Colorado had 40,000 fewer jobs than in 2000, despite having almost 900,000 more residents. The 2007 recession was largely behind that decline, eliminating 141,000 jobs, or 6 percent of the Colorado labor force.
*Unemployment: Colorado ended the decade with its highest unemployment rate in 28 years. However, Colorado’s unemployment is on par with the rest of the country, and recent increases are partially a result of Coloradans resuming the job search.
*Income and wages: Colorado’s median income is higher than the national average. However, income has been stagnant, and Coloradans end the decade with the same median household income they started the decade with, despite gains in productivity.
*Poverty: Poverty in Colorado increased throughout the decade, though it remains less severe here than in the nation as a whole. In the wake of the recession, more than one-quarter of Coloradans live with incomes of less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level — a cutoff many experts use as a realistic assessment of modern human needs.
*Health care: A shrinking share of Coloradans is able to secure private health insurance, and 16 percent of residents are uninsured. However, during the recession the share of uninsured remained stable thanks to public health insurance programs.
At the same time, a lot of us still feel like it couldn't happen to us. Now there's a site dedicated to proving how wrong you are.
It's a game. You start as a laid-off person, running out of money and making your own financial decisions. Then you see how long it takes you to end up homeless. (I guess it's possible there's a way to win this game, but so far, I haven't found it.)
Check it out here: http://playspent.org/.
In this week's Indy, Pam Zubeck reports on the Colorado Springs business community's new "We Think Local" push. In it, she quotes the leader of the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp.:
"If we all did 10 percent more [business] locally, it would create 2,000 new jobs," says CEO Mike Kazmierski, basing his figure on research from a 2008 visit to Austin, Texas, to study its thriving economy.
It's nice to hear someone like Kazmierski talk up this effort (even if, as Pam put it, he isn't "encouraging people to shun big-box stores in favor of locally owned businesses"). But anyone who has a tattered, forlorn "Local Biz" sticker on their car or water bottle — a relic of last decade's now-defunct, buy-local campaign — may be forgiven for wondering whether any of this stuff really works.
Well, besides Pam's reporting on two West Coast cities that have seen encouraging results from their efforts, we have a report released yesterday by the New Rules Project, part of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. The Institute is not an unbiased source — as we noted at the bottom of her 2009 "Corporate co-opt of local" essay, senior researcher Stacy Mitchell is "an unabashed supporter of local business." But the numbers from the survey it helped administer look pretty good, nonetheless.
The survey, which was conducted over an 8-day period in January, gathered data from 2,768 independent businesses, including retailers, service providers, restaurants and others. It found that those in places with a "buy local" initiative reported revenue growth of 5.6% on average in 2010, compared to 2.1% for those elsewhere.
Among independent retailers, which accounted for nearly half the respondents, there was a similar gap in holiday sales performance, with those in "buy local" communities seeing a 5.2% increase in holiday sales, while those elsewhere reported an average gain of 0.8%.
Bad news first: Colorado's December unemployment rate was a whopping 8.8 percent. Remember that number doesn't count all sorts of folks who would really still like a job — those who have given up, those who are underemployed — so the real number is actually much higher.
Now for the good news: Since so many people in the state are unemployed, the feds may extend Colorado unemployment benefits for an extra six weeks. Which is great news if you happen to be wondering how you're going to feed the kids.
DECEMBER UNEMPLOYMENT RATE MAY QUALIFY COLORADO
FOR SIX ADDITIONAL WEEKS OF EMERGENCY BENEFITS
State Labor Department is awaiting federal notification on eligibility
(DENVER) — Federal law allows states with a 3-month average total unemployment rate of 8.5 percent or higher to receive an additional six weeks of emergency unemployment compensation. With the release this morning of December’s unemployment rate (8.8 percent), Colorado may join 32 other states that have been allowed to take part in Tier IV. The U.S. Department of Labor will release official updated figures for October 2010 through December 2010 within two weeks.
Upon confirmation by the U.S. Department of Labor, six additional weeks of unemployment compensation will be available to Colorado residents who have run out of money on their regular unemployment claims and on the other extensions to their unemployment benefits. The fourth tier of EUC benefits provides an additional six weeks or 24 percent of the maximum benefit amount of a claimant’s regular unemployment claim, whichever is less.
The Colorado Department of Labor plans to mail notification to all Emergency Unemployment Compensation recipients who are potentially entitled for the six additional weeks of benefits and who have stopped requesting payment bi-weekly. Those who have continued to request payment and have an active claim will automatically receive this fourth tier of benefits. Claimants can reactive their claims online at any time by visiting www.colorado.gov/cdle and clicking on File for Emergency Unemployment Compensation.
Individuals are encouraged not to call the customer service telephone numbers (local and toll free) as the Department of Labor and Employment will take the initiative in contacting potentially eligible persons and providing additional filing instructions.
Additional information about how the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program works is available online at www.colorado.gov/cdle/ui.
Women's wages are expected to recover faster than men's, and that means companies that market to women should do better than companies that market to men.
There are several reasons for the trend. First, women have lost fewer jobs in the recession than men, largely because the biggest sectors hit were male-dominated ones like manufacturing and construction. (Female-dominated professions like health care and education, have been somewhat shielded from the downturn.)
Second, women have other advantages: More women then men graduate from college, and women make most of the financial decisions in the household.
Move over, glass ceiling!
Read more: Bloomberg News.