Monday: Mission starts with stop at chamber

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It was a whirlwind Monday here in Washington, D.C. The defense team started its meetings at the Pentagon at 6:30 am. The business team was not far behind, starting at the U.S Chamber of Commerce at 8:30 a.m.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

After the initial welcome, Bo Choi, the associate manager of grassroots and advocacy programs, provided an overview of the national chamber’s voteforbusiness.com Web site initiative, which is available to local chambers free of charge.

Dave Csintayn said that the Colorado Springs chamber is accredited by the USCOC and not all chambers achieve this status.

Environmental Protection Agency update

The business team then received an update from Michael Formica, the USCOC’s director of environmental affairs. He said that energy and air quality are on the top of his priority list.

“Energy costs are low now but they will be going up,” he said. “When the world economy heats up, energy demand goes up.”

In his update about the Environmental Protection Agency, Formica explained that some areas have an air monitoring system that is not scientifically sound, which could cause business restrictions. He said that if a business wants to start operations, another might have to shut down because of the air monitoring device.

The business team brought up the situation of the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse and its added cost to businesses, and Formica made a note of the problem.

Next came a briefing by Stephanie Polis, the director of Congressional and public affairs, about immigration issues. The briefing could well have been a day-long discussion. She said that some groups are disseminating information that is not entirely true, and politicians are in “a tight spot right now” when it comes to immigration.

Her main message was “don’t make the employers the criminals.”

Polis also said that “illegal aliens make up 90 percent of the agricultural work force” and “without them, people may be paying a lot more for a potato.”

Health care update

Katie Mahoney, manager of health care policy, ended the session.

The group discussed the rising costs of health care and that there is a lot of finger-pointing as to why. Is it insurers, attorneys or physician groups that are responsible for the climbing costs? Mahoney also discussed that there should be national standards for health care information technology.

On to AARP

A short cab ride later, the business team was in the lobby of the national headquarters of the AARP, which has a radio and television studio, print shop and mail room.

The organization has 36.5 million members, and its magazine claims to have the “world’s largest circulation.”

We were told that the AARP endorsement process is quite rigorous, with attorneys reviewing everything. And if the AARP endorses something, the group receives royalties.

But that isn’t the organization’s only revenue stream.

In the basement there is a commercial printing facility. And being in the nation’s capital, there is plenty of printing to be done.

AARP membership is only $12.50 a year, so the group makes its money from other programs, including a financial services division that sells investments and insurance. This division “finances our social mission,” according to Bonnie Brady, our tour guide.

The headquarters also has an area for research and information, which is best described as a library dedicated to the concept of aging.

AARP has 1,500 employees in Washington, D.C. and 1,500 more throughout the United States. The organization also has 250,000 volunteers.

The team had a quick lunch in the AARP cafeteria, and then set off for the Small Business Administration.

Department of Labor

The business team spent the afternoon with the Department of Labor. One of the discussions was about how Colorado Springs might be missing out on some work force grant money.

We discussed the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development initiative and that the Springs received nothing, while the Denver metro area was one of 13 regions that will receive $15 million to develop their high-tech industry during the next three years.

The team also learned that there might be money available for the Pikes Peak Community College Foundation for non-traditional students who continue their studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

You can e-mail questions or special requests while I’m in D.C. to lon.matejczyk@csbj.com