The Denver Post reported that nearly a quarter of banks in Colorado have received two stars or less according to an analysis from BauerFinancial.
Many banks got a zero rating, including: Advantage Bank, Bank of Choice Colorado, FirsTier Bank, Rocky Mountain Bank & Trust, Signature Bank, Community Banks of Colorado in Greenwood Village, Farmers Bank in Ault and Park State Bank & Trust in Woodland Park.
Some bigger name banks — Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, KeyBank, Vectra Bank Colorado and Compass — only got midrange ratings.
While most people don't think of Colorado Springs as the most diverse community in the nation, it's been chosen by a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based company as a site to provide bilingual customer service jobs.
Granada Corp., which provides outsourced customer support services, plans to hire 20 bilingual claims customer service positions in March and 10 sales jobs in January.
Here's the company's press release:
Granada Corp will be hosting a job fair in Colorado Springs on December 7th from 11am-3pm at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center at 2306 East Pikes Peak Avenue.
The company is recruiting jobs for two areas:
— Claims Customer Service Bilingual. Granada is recruiting for 20 positions in March and expects to grow
this wireless industry client to requiring more than 80 positions by the end of 2011.
— Insurance Telephone Sales Bilingual. Granada is recruiting for ten positions to be filled in January and has a preference for CSRs that have a property and casualty license. The company expects to grow this auto insurance client to requiring more than 30 positions by the end of 2011.
“From the outset, we were attracted to Colorado Springs’ vibrant Hispanic American population. Research shows that the city is home to over 50,000 Hispanic Americans,” stated Kit Cooper, chief executive officer of Granada Corporation. “We quickly learned that the Colorado Springs workforce also has very high education levels. We also believe that significant demand exists for customer service jobs that allow people the convenience, work/life balance and cost savings of working out of their homes. We offer competitive fixed income with consistent schedules.”
Mike Kazmierski, EDC President and CEO, remarked, "We are excited about these new jobs for our bilingual workforce. Every new job in our community helps to improve our economic landscape and improve some family's quality of life. We welcome Granada Corporation to our community and will work with them to ensure a smooth transition."
For those interested in learning more about the company and the job requirements, they can visit www.granadacorporation.com and/or www.granadacareers.com.
About Granada Corporation
Granada Corporation is a leading provider of outsourced customer support for companies serving the Hispanic market. Granada localizes all areas of its operations to ensure its clients have the most effective Hispanic customer support infrastructure possible. The results are improved conversion rates, better customer satisfaction scores, greater call productivity and significantly higher retention rates. Our leadership position in the Hispanic market is supported by a Board of Advisors, which includes such well respected entrepreneurs and community leaders as Moctesuma Esparza, Fernando Espuelas and Jorge Castro. The company is based in Santa Barbara, California.
Here's your chance to figure out how to rescue the nation from run-away government spending by cutting programs and entitlements or raising taxes, or both.
The New York Times offers this calculator so you can see how much each spending cut or tax hike would affect the deficit.
For me, it was easy. One target of my ax was tightening up eligibility for disability, which would save $17 billion over the next 20 years. Here's how the NYT explains it:
The costs of the disability insurance program, which is administrated by the Social Security Administration, have been rising rapidly. This option would cut disability spending by 5 percent by focusing on states with the loosest standards. Supporters note that growing numbers of workers are classified as disabled, though the average job is less physically taxing. Opponents worry that injured or ill workers with few good job prospects would be harmed.
We all bring our own personal biases and experiences to these kinds of exercises, and here's mine:
While attending a high school class reunion over the summer, I was chatting with an old classmate, who was fit as a fiddle. Everyone commented on what good shape he was in. He was a member of one of the top teams in the mud volleyball tournament that weekend and had just returned from a three-on-three basketball tournament in Dallas. But he wasn't working. He was on disability and had been for years, he said. He explained that he'd been in a vehicle crash on the job years ago and his neck was hurt. Now, he said, he couldn't work because his neck bothered him.
C'mon. He can wallow in the mud, jump up and down, dribble and shoot a basketball, but he can't do some sort of job? If this specimen of fitness can slip through the system and qualify for disability, I'm ready to have restrictions on disability tightened up. How about you? What are your choices for cuts?
It's not enough that some Republicans want to whack Social Security and Medicare? Now, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican who represents the 5th District of Colorado in Congress, is going after Big Bird and Antiques Roadshow by proposing that lawmakers defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service.
The idea is gaining traction with the presidential debt reduction commission supporting Lamborn's idea.
Lamborn's press release:
The recommendation is one of 58 specific spending cuts recommended by the commission’s two co-chairs in what is known at the "chairmen's mark," meaning that it is a draft that has not been approved by the 18 members of the commission.
“I am encouraged to see the co-chairs agree that NPR can stand on its own. In a world of 500-channel cable TV and cell phone internet access, government-funded broadcasting is completely unnecessary. The government has no business being a broadcaster, especially when there is a thriving private market.
“The challenge in front of us will require a bipartisan effort, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to rein in out-of-control spending. The Obama administration’s trillion dollar annual deficits are unsustainable. I view cutting a program that can survive without federal funding as one of the easier votes this Congress will take in the coming months.”— Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-05)
In June, Lamborn introduced H.R. 5538, a bill that would cut all federal taxpayer funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) after 2012.
In 2010, taxpayers subsidized CPB to the tune of $420 million. CPB has requested $608 million for their next funding cycle that begins in 2013. CPB is a non-profit that receives about 15 percent of its funding from taxpayers.
If enacted, this bill would save taxpayers about $450 million each year.
A link to infowars.com is circulating the Internet carrying the message that major networks have refused to air a commercial produced by a nonprofit that strives to eliminate waste, mismanagement and inefficiency in the federal government.
Citizens Against Government Waste was founded in 1984 by the late industrialist J. Peter Grace and syndicated columnist Jack Anderson. CAGW is notable for its "pig book" that details pork-barrel spending.
Now, infowars.com says the group has produced a video.
A new television ad about the U.S. national debt produced by Citizens Against Government Waste has been deemed “too controversial” by major networks including ABC, A&E and The History Channel and will not be shown on those channels. The commercial is a homage to a 1986 ad that was entitled “The Deficit Trials” that was also banned by the major networks. Apparently telling the truth about the national debt is a little too “hot” for the major networks to handle. But perhaps it is time to tell the American people the truth. In 1986, the U.S. national debt was around 2 trillion dollars. Today, it is rapidly approaching 14 trillion dollars. The American Dream is being ripped apart right in front of our eyes, but apparently some of the major networks don’t want the American people to really understand what is going on.
Here it is. Only one minute long.
Hey everyone, I have a new favorite toy.
It's called the backseat budgeter and it is SO COOL. Basically, it's a free online program that allows you to create your own budget for the state.
Ever heard about a state budget decision and uttered the words, "YOU IDIOTS! I could do this better with one hand tied behind my back!"?
I know you have. Anyone who reads the news has. That's why you're going to love this site.
Anyways, the even cooler thing about this tool is that it assumes that Amendment 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 have passed. As most of you news watchers know, 60, 61 and 101 would decimate funding for the state budget. Since you pay close attention, you also know that the state budget is pretty screwed anyways what with the recession and TABOR and all. (What I'm trying to tell you is that you'll start out with a big stinking deficit when you start making your own state budget and you're supposed to fix that.)
Once you begin, you will be led through different categories, like education and transportation, and you'll be asked to decide how much money you'd spend on each. Basically, you're making value judgments. Warning: It's pretty hard to balance the budget unless you're really willing to throw out a lot of things most of us care about. But have fun anyway. You can link to it here.
The tool was created by Engaged Public.
Here's some background:
Engaged Public is a firm specializing in the development of public policy strategies designed to educate and generate dialogue.
Introduced in 2008, Backseat Budgeter® is the brainchild of Engaged Public founders, Brenda Morrison and Chris Adams who wanted to create an experiential tool to educate and inform citizens about the Colorado state budget. Backseat Budgeter was originally intended for use in the Bighorn Leadership Development Program, (presented by Engaged Public in collaboration with Colorado State University), but during the severe budget cuts of 2009, the tool was offered to the general public as a community service.
In 2010 The Colorado Health Foundation provided funding to update Backseat Budgeter and to include the simulated effects of fiscal initiatives that will be on the November 2010 ballot.
In keeping with Engaged Public’s commitment to civic engagement and community service, the Backseat Budgeter simulation tool is available to other public entities who wish to engage their constituents in their budgeting process. If you are interested in learning more about how to use Backseat Budgeter for your public budget (state, city, county, school district, etc.) please contact us.
Ah, Freedom Park: Smoke hole. Employee picnic area. Department meeting spot. Anyone who's worked at the Gazette, including me, has memories of grills cooking hamburgers and hot dogs, and colleagues playing volleyball in Freedom Park, a green refuge south of the office building on Prospect Street.
Now, it appears to be the latest target for downsizing — a potential source of cash in hard times.
Like at a lot of businesses, the wolf of the recession is probably growling at the door of the Gazette, owned by Freedom Communications, which emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year.
Anyway, as circulation of the daily paper tumbles and layoffs have shrunk the ranks considerably, the newspaper has placed two pieces of property bordering its office building on the market.
According to a listing with HAI Highland Commercial Group, Inc, the park, 20,579 square feet in size, is valued at $103,000. The other, a 1-acre paved area just west of the building, is priced at $189,000.
"Corporate Surplus Land For Sale on East Colorado Avenue adjacent to Central Business District. Industrial, office or multi-family uses. Located adjacent to the Gazette campus. Easy access from E Pikes Peak Avenue," the listing says.
The empty lot to the west has a bit of a history. Adjacent to Shooks Run, its paving job some years ago got the newspaper in hot water with the city, because it was done without following some of the city's rules.
The Gazette's Bill Vogrin wrote in a 2006 article that the asphalt lot didn't have "the required landscaping or a storm-water retention pond to collect runoff and filter out oils and other contaminants common in parking lots." He also reported that city zoning officials found several problems after inspecting the lot.
"The lot was built without a city-approved development plan; asphalt exceeded the owner’s property line by about 15 feet along a long stretch of sidewalk; it lacked proper landscaping; and it violated the property’s residential zoning," he wrote.
We've asked Gazette Publisher Steve Pope to elaborate on the property listings but haven't heard back from him. We'll update when he responds.
Voting starts today in the 2010 Best Of Colorado Springs readers' poll. And just for telling us what you like in food, nightlife, media and more, you get a chance to win an Apple iPad.
The earlier you vote, the more chances you have to win; we'll be drawing a voter's name each week. For more, watch the video below.
El Paso County's average weekly wage was among the lowest among the state's nine largest counties in December 2009, according to data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Weekly pay here averaged $863, compared to $1,094 in Arapahoe, $1,069 in Boulder, $1,154 in Denver, $1,179 in Douglas and $969 in Jefferson. The three that reported lower average weekly wages were Adams at $849, Larimer at $841, and Weld at $772.
The state's average weekly wage was $965, and the national figure, $942.
El Paso County reported the lowest percentage drop in employment from December 2008 to December 2009 at 3.7 percent, compared to the state's nine largest counties and the state as a whole, which reported a decline of 4.9 percent.
As for the fourth quarter of last year, employment rose by 3.6 percent in the county, fourth highest gain in the state. Douglas County reported the biggest gain in employment in the nation at 26.1 percent.
Check out the complete report.
Some argue that keeping wages low is a good thing, because it attracts businesses looking to keep operating costs in check. Others say low wages reduce buying power, which causes the local economy to stagnate. What do you think?
If you're planning a trip across the pond anytime soon and you don’t have a U.S. passport yet, you may want to submit your application before next Tuesday.
First-time adult passport application fees are increasing 35 percent, from $100 to $135.
Is it time to renew your passport? Come next week, you'll pay $110; today the renewal fee is only $75.
A more detailed breakdown of charges, including fees for minors, can be found here.
Don’t forget that passports require photos with specific dimensions, which may mean an additional charge.
Passport applications may be submitted at many U.S. Postal Service locations. Check here to find a location near you.
If you think marching for a cause can get results, or you're just a joiner, here's an opportunity.
Those who doubt that women's pay lags behind that of men, consider this:
In 2007, women's median annual paychecks reflected only 78 cents for every $1 earned by men, the National Organization for Women reports, citing the National Committee on Pay Equity. Specifically for women of color, the gap is even wider: In comparison to men's dollar, African American women earn only 69 cents and Latinas just 59 cents.
Women's median pay was less than men's in each and every one of the 20 industries and 25 occupation groups surveyed by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2007. Even men working in female-dominated occupations tend to earn more than women working in those same occupations, the NOW website says.
Here's some good news: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has helped three-quarters of the Colorado population, according to an analysis by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.
The agency says the funds will come through more than 140 channels, including benefits to individuals (tax cuts, emergency food and higher unemployment benefits), loans to small businesses, health care and public safety services and investments in emerging industries (green energy, high-speed internet and health care information technology). Colorado has already received $1.07 billion in tax and Social Security benefits, the report says.
Here's a breakdown of who was benefited by the legislation, proposed by President Obama and passed by Democrats without much help from the GOP.
In fact, El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen has often criticized the bill, saying it burdens future generations with debt.
The law center's Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute examined tax provisions in the act.
“The tax provisions in the Recovery Act have lifted tens of thousands of Coloradans out of poverty or prevented them from falling into poverty in the first place,” tax policy analyst Ali Mickelson said in a press release. “The benefits also cross income levels — 98 percent of the nation saw some tax benefit. That was an essential part of lifting our nation and Colorado out of economic recession.”
Though the rest of the economy is in the dumper, Peterson Air Force Base pumps $1.23 billion into the local economy through payroll and contracts, according to an http://www.peterson.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-100402-110.pdf" target="_blank">economic impact analysis conducted by the 21st Space Wing, which runs the base.
The study also included Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and the Plaza of the Rockies building, 121 S. Tejon St., where one of the base’s 53 mission partners, the Joint Personal Property Shipping Office, is located, a Peterson spokeswoman says.
Cheyenne Mountain's underground bunker used to house the North America Aerospace Defense Command, the joint command with Canada, until it moved to a Peterson above-ground building in May 2008. The mountain is still in use, but the number of personnel is greatly diminished, and some functions moved elsewhere.
Anyway, the 14-page report, which covered the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2009, boasts that 5,484 active duty, Reserve and Guard military personnel and 5,743 civilians are stationed at Peterson and its satellites. This translates to a total military payroll of $315 million and civilian payroll of $185 million annually.
In addition, the base hires lots of contractors for various construction contracts that cost $33 million last year. Another $430 million was paid out for base services provided by local companies, and $53 million went to the commissary, base exchange, health, education through tuition reimbursement and other equipment, materials and supplies. The base also paid $2.2 million in aid to local school districts.
A 21st Space Wing press release said the base's many space-related missions, including Air Force Space Command, attract space industries. The Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation estimates that in the next five years, the space industry will have a $4.5 billion impact on the Colorado Springs economy, the news release said.
Reached by phone, Steve Brady, 21st Space Wing public affairs officer, says although the economic impact analysis is no longer mandated by the Pentagon, Peterson compiles a report annually at the request of the local business community.
"The EIS is provided to local and regional groups, as well as elected officials, including chambers of commerce and city council members, for use in their products, as well as to communicate what, as a neighbor, Peterson AFB offers to the local community," Tech Sgt. Amanda Callahan says in an email further explaining the study.
Of the 8,000 or so streetlights the city is turning off to save money, about 172 have been adopted by residents so they'll keep burning.
"The response has been fairly consistent since we announced the program," city spokesman John Leavitt says in an e-mail. "Most citizens/customers seem to accept the streetlight deactivation as a
way for the City to reduce one cost. Some are actually happy that it is happening. But some customers are very concerned about their light being turned off. Concerns range from increased crime to encroaching wild animals. A small percentage of those who call in are interested in the adoption program. Most want the City to reconsider what it has done and turn the light back on."
Leavitt couldn't say how much money has been paid in the adoption program, because some lights cost more to keep burning that others.
Based on the 113 requests made on line, which doesn't include requests done by phone or through the mail, the biggest rescue effort has taken place in the Broadmoor area with 21. Second high is ZIP code 80919 in northeast Colorado Springs with 15. Tied for third at 10 each are ZIP codes 80917 (Village Seven) and 80907, an area that flanks Interstate 25 north of Fillmore to Austin Bluffs Parkway.
Go here for information on the program.
Rocky Wind Power, a subsidiary of the company wooed here with tax incentives but put things on hold after questions were raised about its viability, has gone out of business, the Colorado Springs Business Journal reports.
Writer Rob Larimer says in a story posted Monday that Iowa-based Prevailing Power has closed down, according to the Valley News Today of Shenandoah, Iowa.
Rocky Wind Power, an off-shoot of the business, was lured here by a $300,000 package of incentives, mostly tax breaks, and planned to open a wind generator manufacturing plant that would have employed at least 125 people.
Within days of the announcement last month, the Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp. issued a press release saying questions surrounded the company. Those included a pending investigation by the Iowa Attorney General's Office and wind technicians who challenged whether the roof-mounted and street-light mounted wind generators would actually work.
Mike Kazmierski, CEO of the EDC, told the Independent his agency would change how it vets potential businesses, although the EDC's goal is not to investigate companies but rather only provide information they seek in making a relocation decision.