Ted Haggard: Good for economic development

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Perhaps Phil Lane, the businessman leading Operation 6035, should meet the new Ted Haggard.

“Everyone is welcome: Democrat, Republican, gay, straight, bi, addicts, tall, short,” Haggard said early this month as he announced his return to the pulpit. “Jesus’ arms are open to all of us.”

Amen to that, and amen to what appears to be the passing of the old Ted Haggard.

Regardless of whether he represents your brand of faith or whether you’re ready to forgive his sexual transgressions, Haggard’s message is precisely more of what we need to hear from religious leaders in this town.

Anything that we can do to foster inclusion and diversity will only help rid this region of its reputation for intolerance.

Operation 6035 is still getting its footing. It was created by various organizations last year to develop a comprehensive economic development strategy for the region.

How well it does is, of course, directly linked to how Colorado Springs is viewed by the rest of the world.

And a place that doesn’t welcome diversity can forget about transforming its economy into a 21st century powerhouse.

The work of Operation 6035 will be based at least in part on a study of the region’s strengths and weaknesses by Angelou Economics. The economic development consulting firm last year offered a series of suggestions to help lure companies here, create new jobs and stem the exodus of young talent to other areas of the country.

Lane, who assumed his role with 6035 in February, has thus far focused on identifying key organizations that might be able to help and getting them to commit to the cause.

It’s all about integrating local leadership and enhancing community collaboration.

Doing that will allow the Springs to develop a shared vision about how it wants to be viewed in the years ahead.

As you might expect, one of Angelou’s key recommendations was to address the lack of incentive programs for companies considering relocation.

Upfront cash grants might be hard to find at the moment, but tackling the question of our intolerance can be addressed at little cost.

Some here are unwilling to accept the problem exists at all, insisting our arms are open to all. But, thankfully, many of the locals interviewed by Angelou made a point to share their concerns on this point.

“Throughout the interviews, focus groups and surveys conducted, many emphasized the region’s challenges regarding cultural conflicts between various nonprofit, non-governmental and religious organizations,” Angelou’s market assessment said.

“It is in the best interest of the community that these cultural and religious tensions be addressed and mitigated to the fullest extent possible.

“While differences of opinion among residents are to be expected and are in fact found to flourish in the communities with the most engaged young professionals, there appears to be little collaboration or communication amongst groups within the Pikes Peak region and little trust.

“Only through dialogue, cooperation, collaboration on common goals, and mutual respect will the region begin to address this dynamic.”

Despite all that, the consultant’s subsequent implementation plan — a six-page list of dozens of to-do items — doesn’t offer specific steps that can be taken to address these concerns.

Instead, the closest it comes is in expressing a goal for Operation 6035 to “identify key public and private sector partners to invite” to join a regional leadership forum.

So, what, if anything, might Operation 6035 have in mind to address community divisions?

We could find out Monday. That’s when Lane and others in the group are scheduled to provide an update of their work, as well as to kick off a campaign to solicit financial support from the community.

Many of Angelou’s recommendations on fostering entrepreneurship, reversing the “brain drain” and others will undoubtedly be pursued aggressively.

While I wouldn’t expect to see Haggard at the event, let’s hope his new acceptance of varied political, religious and social viewpoints is fully represented, and that we hear a commitment to erasing this blot on the city’s reputation.

Relocation incentives are important to a CEO, but so are employees who are welcomed by their new neighbors.

Allen Greenberg is the editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. Reach him at 719-329-5206 or allen.greenberg@csbj.com.