Quimby seeks to build support base as EDC chairman

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New Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. Chairman Doug Quimby doesn’t underestimate the challenges of his new job. Quimby, who also serves as president of Esqueterra Development and heads development of the Cordera housing community, said the economy is making it tough on local economic development efforts.

One of his biggest goals, he said, is to initiate a campaign to address critics of the organization and to broaden its support base.

As incoming EDC chairman, what do you see as the organization’s biggest challenges?

The economy is certainly the biggest (challenge) but there’s not much we can do about that. My focus is on what we can control. Economic development is not just the job of the EDC staff and board. I’m energized to improve our relationship with those in local government, the business community and the citizenry. We also need to reach out to other organizations, collaborate with (groups like) the Chamber of Commerce, Experience Colorado, the Downtown Partnership, Dream City 20/20 and Operation 6035.

What are its biggest opportunities?

If we’re successful in broadening our base and energizing the community, there’s a big opportunity to advance our public policy profile and influence at the state level. Another opportunity is to help local business, put a renewed focus on growing and work harder retain homegrown companies. We need to strengthen our entrepreneurial climate. Until recently we haven’t had our own venture capital. Through the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Technology Incubator, we have some of the necessary tools.

As a Colorado Springs resident for more than 30 years, how do you think we can be more competitive?

There’s a lot we can do. Colorado Springs actually has been very successful compared to other cities. First we’ve had an image problem. We need to think about how we see ourselves. As a community we lack self-esteem. It’s time for an attitude adjustment. There’s such mistrust of government. I’m for lower taxes and limited government, but it hurts us competitively not to enlist the resources of our city (government) in attracting new companies. As taxpayers, we are the government; we’re ultimately responsible and need to step up to grow. Maybe the answer is to worry less about ideology and focus on what’s good for the community as a whole. We also need to look at new models for fundraising that are less susceptible to business cycles. It’s hard for a small group like EDC to raise enough money to get the job done. The key is to broaden participation by more of us in our economic future.

What did you think of the call by some City Council members for an audit of EDC?

City Council made the decision not to require an audit this year. It was a legitimate request, but I don’t understand the suggestion that funds have been misused. Besides, we already do an independent audit and make that information available to the city and investors. What some have called for is the equivalent of a performance evaluation. I think that has already been done very thoroughly during the Angelou Economics’ study and Operation 6035.

Audio excerpt of the interview with Doug Quimby.