Colorado Springs lacks positive leadership, community collaboration, is rapidly losing young professionals and the local Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights severely handicaps the city’s economic development efforts.
That’s the conclusion of the “Operation 60Thirty-five Action Plan” and the “Implementation Matrix” prepared by Angelou Economics of Austin, Texas, at the request of more than a dozen public and private organizations, including the Economic Development Corp., the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Quality Community Group.
The Business Journal obtained a copy of the report, although recipients of the e-mail were cautioned to “not forward and please keep these documents close hold, as this information is not ready for public release at this point.”
The plan bluntly defines the local and regional impediments to creating long-term effective economic development strategies.
“Early in the course of this project it became clear that there were systemic issues facing the region, issues that both compromised and threatened the ability to recruit new industry and that threw a stark light on economic vitality,” according to the executive summary. “It was the opinion of the consulting team, as well as stakeholders, that a frank and candid assessment of those issues would be required.”
The report says that longstanding silos must be broken down to allow for collaboration toward a common vision.
“This plan stretches the boundaries of what constitutes economic action,” the report says. “It does this because community stakeholders believe that ‘business as usual’ will result in failure. … (T)he Pikes Peak region must take fundamental collaborative action in order to strengthen the region’s competitiveness. Because of this approach, the recommendations that are the core of this plan go well beyond a traditional framework.”
Specific impediments, according to the action plan, include:
* Limited community collaboration
* Need for positive community leadership
* Enhancing regional innovation and commercialization
* Loss of young professionals
* TABOR legislation limits public sector’s ability to fund critical programs/projects
The report’s authors regard the region’s loss of young professionals as a particularly serious problem.
“The region benefits from some of the top high school graduation rates in the country and extremely positive employer perceptions of K-12 school systems,” the report says. “High college attainment rates and growing university and community college presence offer significant opportunities. However, the region is rapidly losing the critical young professional demographic (25-44 age group). Reversing this trend and establishing the Pikes Peak region as a talent magnet will be critical component of this action plan.”
But that may not be as easy as it seems, according to a study commissioned by CEOs for Cities, a network of mayors, corporate CEOs, university presidents, foundation officials, and business and civic leaders, which is cited in the report.
The CEOs for Cities study says that:
* Two-thirds of college-educated young people report that they will make the decision of where they live first, then look for a job within that area.
* When they do move, college-educated young people are not making drastic changes; rather, they are most likely to consider living in areas that are similar to their current situation.
The Angelou report says that, “In order to raise awareness of the Pikes Peak region as a viable location of choice, regional leaders must embark on an aggressive marketing campaign targeted at young professionals and recent college graduates – and talent already in-bound to the Greater Front Range region including Denver and Pueblo.”
Much of the action plan’s 26 pages are devoted to specific strategies.
The plan recommends that a “steering committee” be created to develop “a guerilla marketing campaign that includes message board strategies and popculture PR, word of mouth and U-Tube (sic) strategies …”
It also suggests developing an “Operation60Thirty-Five implementation leadership committee,” which would be responsible for overseeing, coordinating, facilitating and executing the plan.
“This committee should develop a Memorandum of Understanding to ensure a commitment to collaboration and implementation of this action plan,” the report says. “Successful implementation of the plan will not occur unless a comprehensive and diverse range of community leaders are driving the effort. Other stakeholders, from state leaders to industry leaders to educators to entrepreneurs must be engaged.”
A group of more than 100 community leaders has been invited to a meeting at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Alamo Corporate Center Annex to discuss “the next steps” for Operation 60Thirty-five.