City Bits

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USAA rating affirmed

Moody’s Investors Service has affirmed the financial strength rating of Aaa (exceptional, highest of 21 possible ratings) of USAA’s Property and Casualty Insurance Group, and Aa1 (excellent, second highest of 21 possible ratings) for its life insurance company.

USAA is the only property and casualty insurer rated Aaa by Moody’s.

From the beginning of 2009 through June 30, the association’s net worth increased 8.5 percent to $15.8 billion, owned and managed assets increased 8 percent to $129.1 billion, and members and other customers purchased nearly $715 million in mutual fund assets and nearly $1.3 billion in annuities.

Free marketing sessions

MarketMotion is offering 10 free 30-minute counseling sessions to celebrate the firm’s 10th year of operation in the Front Range.

Qualifying company CEO’s will be scheduled privately and the lead executives participating will be asked to submit three market related questions or subjects they would like to explore guidance on prior to the session. Participants will be offered the company’s standard non-disclosure agreement with a two year term.

Applicants must be headquartered in Colorado and have average annual sales during the last three years of at least $5 million.

For more information, visit www.marketmotion.net or call 533-1599.

Computer training

Ecumenical Social Ministries is offering the following computer training classes:

An Introduction to the Internet — 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday mornings. No charge.

Word Classes — A four week course from 1 to 3 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday. The cost is $10. Classes begin Oct. 7.

Excel Classes — A four week course from 1 to 3 p.m. every Tuesday. The cost is $10. Classes begin Oct. 6.

For more information, call 228-6794.

FAC launches urban garden

The Fine Arts Center, Pikes Peak Urban Gardens, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center and Rick’s Garden Center are partnering with the Dale House Project to grow vegetables in a garden next to the FAC parking lot.

The gardeners are residents of the Dale House Project, which helps delinquent, neglected and abused teenagers learn skills to live independently. One of the Dale House homes is next to the FAC at 7 W. Dale St.

The food grown will be used to feed the kids, providing an opportunity for them to see a project through as a long-term commitment. The teens also will be responsible for marketing and sales of the excess during a weekly farmers market from 2 to 4 p.m. on Thursdays at the FAC.

Springs Rescue Mission ‘Fall Extravaganza’

Springs Rescue Mission will host its first “Fall Extravaganza” to support the less fortunate at 9 a.m. Oct. 3 at 5 W. Las Vegas St.

SRM will provide free clothing, furniture, household goods and other basic items to more than 1,000 families and individuals. The give-away will be followed by a free barbecue lunch, live music and games for children until 1 p.m.

The event also will include information about help for working-class families with loans, health insurance, free physicals, immunizations and free pre-school programs.

For more information, call 632-1822 or visit www.mysrm.org.

Smart Meal honored

Colorado’s Smart Meal program has been recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a practiced-based program worthy of implementation in other states.

The program was developed during 2005 as an incentive for restaurants to help customers identify and choose healthier meals. Participating restaurants and eating establishments in Colorado offer 1,630 Smart Meal choices every day.

An evaluation by the CDC, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of North Carolina’s Center of Excellence for Training and Research Translation deemed the state’s Smart Meal program a best practice program.

To receive a Smart Meal seal, meals must contain:

No more than 700 calories.

No more than 30 percent total fat.

No more than 15 percent saturated fat.

No more than 0.5 grams of trans fat.

No more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium.

UCCS College of Education receives research funding

Faculty and staff members of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs’ College of Education have been awarded more than $500,000 in research grants to improve the recruitment and training of southern Colorado K-12 teachers.

Lindy Crawford, associate dean of the College of Education; Randall DePry, associate professor and chairman of the Department of Special Education; and John Weathers, assistant professor in the College of Education, will be principal investigators on grants designed to develop current teachers’ abilities in math and science, as well as to recruit high-ability students to careers in education and assist classroom para-professionals to become classroom teachers.

The faculty members will work closely with staff in the Troops to Teachers Program. Meghan Diderrich, associate regional director, and Bob Leonard, Colorado and Nebraska state director, will serve as co-investigators. Additionally, the faculty will work with in educators in several southern Colorado public school districts and with faculty at other Colorado universities.

Weathers will be principal investigator on a $216,680 federal grant from the No Child Left Behind Act to enhance the formative assessment capacity of 84 math and science teachers in Pueblo School District 60. He will work with faculty members from the Colorado School of Mines, the University of Northern Colorado and Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service researchers.

DePry will be principal investigator on a $240,607 grant from the No Child Left Behind Act to assist military personnel currently working as para-professional educators to become licensed math, science or special education teachers. The program, in partnership with the Mountain West Troops to Teachers office on the UCCS campus, will involve Edison 54JT, Miami Yoder 60 JT, Harrison School District 2 and Fountain School District 8. Co-principal investigators are Diderrich and Leonard of Troops to Teachers. Applications will begin during October with classes beginning during January.

Crawford will be principal investigator on a $72,600 grant from Teach Colorado, a Department of Higher Education program. In partnership with the Colorado School of Mines and the Troops to Teachers Programs, the grant will be used to recruit 10 college graduates and five undergraduate students with math and science backgrounds to pursue careers in secondary education and special education teacher preparation.

BBB recognizes four companies for customer service excellence

The Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado’s Foundation has selected the following four companies as recipients of its Excellence in Customer Service Award:

Champion Windows, Siding, Patio Rooms

Endodontic Specialists of Colorado P.C.

Navakai Inc.

The WireNut

The companies were selected by a team of independent evaluators after an in-depth examination. All companies that participated in the EICS program were provided with a feedback report to help improve their existing customer service process.

Proceeds from EICS benefit the BBB’s Foundation, which provides consumer education to teens, seniors, the military and local businesses.

Casino revenue inches up

Revenue at Colorado casinos continued to grow, but at a slower rate, during August — the second month of new games, limits and hours.

Casinos statewide reported $69.6 million in adjusted gross proceeds, up 2.1 percent from $68.2 million during August 2008, but down 8.5 percent from $76.1 million during July, when revenues topped the previous July by 16 percent.

AGP is most simply defined as the amount wagered by bettors less payouts from casinos.

Black Hawk’s 18 casinos generated $49.6 million in AGP last month, up 3.9 percent from $47.7 million during August 2008, but down 8.9 percent from $54.4 million during July.

Cripple Creek’s 16 casinos totaled $13.9 million in AGP, down 1.9 from $15 million the previous August and down 7.5 percent from $14.2 million during July.

Central City’s six casinos produced $6.1 million in AGP during August, down 1.9 percent from $6.2 million during 2008 and down 8 percent from $6.6 million the previous month.

Casinos statewide paid $6.4 million in gaming tax proceeds last month, up from $2 million during July, as casinos progressed through a graduated tax structure that started during July.

SSFCU tops 700,000

Security Service Federal Credit Union membership has topped 700,000.

SSFCU, which is headquartered in San Antonio, has $5 billion in assets and was established during 1956. It is the ninth largest credit union in the nation and has 32 service centers in Texas and 14 in Colorado.