Now it’s time to get down to business

Filed under: News |

John Hazlehurst gets down to business and joins the staff of the Colorado Springs Business Journal.

Admit it – you’re a little surprised to see my byline here, aren’t you?
As in: isn’t he that unreconstructed lefty who’s been writing for the Independent for the last 10 years? What does he know about business?
Having set up straw men, let me knock them down.
First, I’m a reconstructed lefty, not a traditional liberal. And secondly, my business experience led me to journalism, just as an art critic’s attempts to make art leads him to criticism.
Or, to put it differently, someone who sat on the bench for his high school hockey team finds it easy to appreciate the brilliance of Joe Sakic.
Here’s a (mercifully short) biography.
Born and raised right here in Colorado Springs, where my family has lived since the 19th century. Dropped out of college, acquired an ancient wooden sailboat and spent the next six years sailing around the world.
I then worked at a variety of jobs; charter boat captain, delivery skipper, investment banker, owner/operator of a fleet of charter sailboats – until 1981, when I came back to the Springs. Since then, I’ve been a Realtor, renovated Victorians, bought/sold historic art, served a couple of terms on city council, sold advertising and been a freelance journalist.
As a kid, I delivered the Denver Post and the Gazette, when they were still afternoon papers.
Coming home from school, taking the bundle of papers that had been dropped on the front porch, folding them, putting them into my bike’s paperbags – it was magic. I’d read as I folded, especially the Post’s lead columnist, Pocky Maranzino.
Other kids might want to be policemen, or firemen or lawyers – I just wanted to be Pocky, whose columns seemed to define the romance of the Big City.
I marveled at the antics of the power brokers, as Pocky so vividly described them. I still remember one headline: ‘Boettcher, Zeckendorf Split!’ Who were they? What did it mean?
Claude Boettcher and Bill Zeckendorf were major Denver players half a century ago. And long after all of the petty dramas of that time – the murders, the scandals, the preening politicians – have vanished from memory, their achievements are still visible and tangible.
They were dealmakers and dreamers who pulled buildings out of the ground, created neighborhoods and reshaped Denver. They were visionaries, I guess, but also just a couple of hardworking guys trying to make a buck.
So what’s the point?
Just this: Business was then, is now and always will be the biggest story along the Front Range. Locally, we’ve grown from the slow-paced city of my childhood to a metropolitan area of 500,000 souls.
This didn’t happen because the legislature passed a law mandating growth, or because the City Council crafted a mission statement (Colorado Springs! Growing because we say it will!).
It happened because of the efforts of tens of thousands of men and women trying to build their businesses, make a few dollars, pay the mortgage – and maybe, even get rich.
They – you – built the houses we live in, the buildings where we work, the stores where we shop, the restaurants where we eat and the companies that we work for.
Every profession has a first rule. The first principle of warfare? Secure your base. Of medicine? Do no harm. Of business? You control your costs; your competitors control your prices. And of journalism? Go where the stories are.
In our city, many of the most interesting stories involve business, and especially the nexus between business, politics and society. It’s intricate, endlessly entertaining and profoundly important.
Look at the issues of the day – immigration, business retention and recruitment, tax policies and political fundraising, just to name a few. They’re all important to business, and yet, media coverage is often superficial, credulous or irrelevant.
Consider Mayor Lionel Rivera’s dilemma: His fellow candidates for Congressional District 5 gleefully tsk-tsked when the Gazette reported that he’d received $16,000 in campaign contributions from local developers.
Said Duncan Bremer, “It just doesn’t sit right,” while Doug Lamborn loftily intoned “… this issue does highlight the need for meaningful lobbyist reform at the federal level.”
Now let us be realistic – who is Lionel supposed to solicit for contributions? Emily’s List? Howard Dean?
City Council decisions are profoundly important to developers, and Lionel’s been a good mayor – fair and impartial. To imply that developer contributions constitute some sort of quid pro quo for past and/or future votes is ludicrous – especially given his record.
Developers support Lionel because he’s smart, informed and understands business.
I’m excited about having the opportunity to cover business issues with the care and depth that they deserve. After 50 years, I know where the bodies are buried (in fact, I buried a few of them myself).
The next few months ought to be particularly exciting – elections, Iraq, oil prices, mortgage rates, Fort Carson, water, education – and it’ll be fun to watch the fireworks.
And who knows – maybe we’ll touch off a cherry bomb or two ourselves.
John Hazlehurst can be reached at john.hazlehurst@csbj.com or 634-3223.