Thursday, December 11, 2014

State of the Region addresses good, bad news

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Hisey was eager to stress the good news.

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

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

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

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

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

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