Community leadership, growth focus of EDC luncheon

Yesterday’s Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. luncheon brought out about 200 solid community supporters who were provided a series of upbeat presentations.

Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal story exploring the city’s budget woes drew only a brief wince from EDC chairman of the board Scott Bryan.

He quickly moved on, introducing Operation 6035 executive director Phil Lane who provided a 5-minute program update.  Regional resources, collaboration between existing community organizations and “integrated leadership” will be key to the initiative’s success, Lane said.

A full-fledged plan, describing how greater economic vitality can be achieved, is in the works and will be ready by the end of June.

Bryan also recognized individuals and organizations for their contributions to EDC and to the broader community.

Both Nor’Wood Development’s president Chris Jenkins and La Plata Investment’s CEO Scott Smith accepted awards for having the largest impact on the funding of the EDC program in 2009.

Recognized for his organization’s “cutting edge” approach to controlling customer costs while investing in the local environment, Carl Cruz, Colorado Springs Utilities’ customer and corporate services officer, accepted the EDC’s award for outstanding customer service.

The 2009 Volunteer of the Year award was a shared honor – presented to both Nor’Wood’s Jenkins and to University of Colorado at Colorado Springs’ Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak.

Two Community Enhancement Awards were awarded to two separate projects.

The first was presented to Shockley-Zalabak for the new $56.1 million UCCS Science and Engineering Building.

The second was an award for the “collaborative effort” that went into the University Village Colorado mixed-use redevelopment.

Those honored included the University, the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority, Kratt Commercial Properties, architect Michael Collins and Olive Real Estate Group’s Tom Cone.

The event was capped by an overview of the community and its prospects for economic growth by UCCS’s director for the Center for Entrepreneurship, Tom Duening.

He also offered observations as a relative newcomer to the Pikes Peak region.

Citing challenges faced by the nation’s Rust Belt, Bible Belt and, most recently, the Sun Belt, which was hit hard by the housing bubble, Duening said the region’s greatest economic opportunities will evolve as part of the up-and-coming “Lifestyle Belt.”

“The Brookings Institute has identified the Intermountain West as the next growth area of the country,” Duening said.

“We’re on the leading edge of considerable population growth which, in turn, will lead to economic growth.  We have it all – natural beauty, the bluest skies and honest, genuine people.”