Editor’s Note: The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, formerly the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC, is in Washington, D.C. this week – meeting with the Congressional delegation, the group’s lobbyist and learning more about ways to connect the business community. The CSBJ will provide daily updates of the group’s activities and what they’re learning on the trip.
On the first full day of its annual Washington, D.C., trip the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance was invited back.
The group was talking with Congress’s small business committee, and was discussing access to lending, said President and CEO Joe Raso.
“And they said, ‘Come back, when we’re in session and testify about the problems you’re having,” he said. “That’s the kind of thing we’re doing here – trying to make those connections, let people know what we’re doing here.”
The group split into divisions in order to cover more ground, he said. And this evening, after 6 p.m. Eastern time, the Pentagon group still hadn’t returned.
About 40 people are on the trip this year – a fairly even cross-section of the business community. Raso said there were representatives from government, real estate, development, tourism, banking and finance, aerospace and high-tech present. It means that the group has been able to better represent the city and the region.
And since this isn’t their first trip to D.C., Stephannie Finley, who handles special projects at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, said that they were able to have higher-level conversations.
“We have people who have been doing this for years,” she said. “So they’re able to engage leaders in Washington at a much deeper level. That’s important. It marks us as a group that knows what we want to accomplish – not just another group walking into their office with no idea what’s going on.”
And that knowledge is important, Raso said. The city is now dialed into the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, which has six offices nationwide – one of which his in Denver. The administration recently gave $100,000 to the Convention and Visitors Bureau for marketing efforts after the Waldo Canyon fire.
“And now we’re finding out there could be other grants we can get,” he said. “To have an office in our backyard is important, but to have the attention in Washington will help as well.”
The group also found out that money to clean up the water supply in the aftermath of the wildfire could also be available. The Farm Bill, being considered by the House of Representatives, contains money that the city could apply to clean up pipelines and other water issues related to the fire and consequent flooding in the months after.
Raso said that he kept hearing from the Washington insiders how important the Business Alliance trip was to leaders.
“They tell us to focus on four or five issues, and keep them in the forefront,” he said. “To narrow what we want to accomplish, and to let our delegation know.”