City can’t forget its newest weapon in plotting post-fire strategy

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Throughout the business and nonprofit sectors of Colorado Springs, we’re seeing a transition now as we move away from the massive, immediate response to the Waldo Canyon fire. Now, and for weeks to come, the city will evolve into dealing with ongoing issues and needs on a more permanent basis.

Again, as has been said in many ways, we’ve been seeing the best of Colorado Springs, shining through in the donations of money, food and volunteer time.

But now, as the city adjusts and revises its course moving forward, let’s make sure not to forget our newest, not-so-secret-anymore weapon.

What is that weapon, you ask? Simple. It’s the creative, under-utilized minds and imaginations of Colorado Springs’ young professionals and entrepreneurs, generally in the 21-39 age group. If you haven’t noticed, they’re feeling more empowered these days than ever before.

For so many years, even generations, the tendency here has been to pay little if any attention to the city’s young adults. They weren’t expected to become local leaders in their 20s or even 30s.

But that’s changing now. We began to notice it last year when the city’s voters elected 32-year-old Brandy Williams to City Council. Anything but a spectator, Williams has held her own as a rookie councilor and has told acquaintances that her goal is to become mayor someday.

Shortly after that, the tech-savvy younger crowd successfully set up and pulled off a pre-runoff online event with Steve Bach and Richard Skorman answering a variety of thoughtful questions from Facebook, Twitter and postings to a Springs Vision Forum website set up specifically for the occasion.

Then last fall, when the Convention and Visitors Bureau unveiled its new “Live it up!” slogan and logo for the city’s rebranding effort, many of that same 21-39 crowd felt they should have been more involved in the process — and some did participate in a followup process that led to revising the rebranding logo.

Most recently, of course, came the Waldo Canyon fire. Even as the entire area reeled in shock at the destruction, a group of young people — about 10 men and women, brimming with ideas and energy — got together and developed the Wild Fire Tees idea as an instant, online fundraising effort. Their shirt designs became so much of an immediate viral hit, as we reported last week, that Wild Fire Tees amassed $300,000 within a few days and now the organizers are pushing toward a revised $500,000 goal.

After so many positive indications, it should be automatic now to give these engaged and talented young adults more opportunities, especially now as we see different civic groups beginning to brainstorm on post-fire strategies. Nobody should question anymore whether the 21-39 crowd has earned a legitimate place in the discussion. They’re worthy, without a doubt.

They want to help the city recover from the fire, so let’s make sure to seek them out, hear what ideas they have — especially related to marketing and making the most of social networking. They can and should be a valuable part of setting a new course for Colorado Springs.

They only need to be asked.