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.
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.”