As 2012 draws to a close, the CSBJ takes a look back at the people who shaped the year: the leaders — in front of cameras and behind the scenes — who forged new directions in the region’s economics, politics, nonprofits, finance, health care and tourism.
But no list would be complete without first recognizing the firefighters who stood their ground and fought the most costly wildfire in Colorado history. The Waldo Canyon fire broke out in late June, eventually sending a wall of flames into the Mountain Shadows neighborhood, killing William and Barbara Everett. But without the nonstop, life-threatening work, dedication and fierce commitment of the frontline firefighters, the damage could have been much worse. The CSBJ salutes the men and women who corralled the flames, saving thousands of homes and lives.
Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz bought The Broadmoor hotel and resort in 2011 and added The Gazette to his portfolio in late 2012. His eponymous family foundation has assets of more than $2 billion and whose personal net worth is estimated by Forbes at $7.8 billion. He’s a private man, but hardly a recluse — and he appears to have adopted Colorado Springs as his new hometown. What’s next — a shiny new downtown building for The Gazette, another tower for The Broadmoor, huge philanthropic gifts, or …?
Steve Bach was everywhere during 2012 — attending events, quarreling with Council, announcing new hires, promoting new initiatives and dominating local news. The city’s first strong mayor seemed to be forever testing the limits of his power, putting his stamp on the new form of government. But he was at his most effective when intervening in areas defined as the exclusive province of City Council — Utilities and Memorial Health System. His backing, both covert and overt, of University of Colorado Health’s bid to lease Memorial proved decisive and fortunate, since Council had seemed poised to take a different direction. He’s a relentless critic of Utilities management, suggesting it’s administratively top-heavy and unduly devoted to the downtown Drake power plant. Stay tuned. He’s only been the mayor for 18 months.
When local attorney Scott Blackmun became CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee in early 2010, he took over an organization in turmoil. Its finances were uncertain, its relations with the International Olympic Committee were strained, its employees demoralized, and its leadership uncertain. Colorado Springs residents, still unhappy with the expensive and clumsily executed retention deal that had kept the USOC in town, expected little from Blackmun. But just as Blackmun rebuilt relationships with the IOC, Olympic athletes and other stakeholders, he rebuilt the USOC’s relationship with its hometown. A downtown Summer Olympics celebration drew a crowd of 15,000, and other Olympic-themed events were similarly successful. In sharp contrast to predecessors who treated the Springs with lofty disdain, Blackmun is accessible, available, civic-minded and involved.
Colorado Springs, led by local businessman Chris Carmichael, made an intentional bid on one of the last legs of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge knowing later stages promise a bigger turnout and more revenue. In the 2012 race, classified as second only to the Tour de France, cyclists raced out of Breckenridge to downtown Colorado Springs in stage five of the seven-day race. It was a Friday, just where the city wanted to be, said Carmichael, one of three Colorado Springs race organizing committee chairs and CEO of Carmichael Training Systems. The race brought worldwide attention to the city as it still recovered from the Waldo Canyon fire.
A project many thought would wither on the vine sprang back to life on the far north end of Colorado Springs when Gary Erickson announced in February that his Northgate Properties had lured Bass Pro Shops to anchor his massive plans for a luxury retail center east of Interstate 25. As the foundation was poured and the walls went up on the 115,000-square-foot outdoor recreation retailer’s behemoth building, Erickson quietly continued negotiations with hotel and water park developers along with dozens of restaurants and smaller retailers that he says will lay the foundation for his Copper Ridge development and eventually fund the connection of Powers Boulevard to I-25.
After leaving an influential position as president of public policy and government affairs at the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, Stephannie Finley took on a new advocacy position at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. And if the new job weren’t enough, she also spearheaded the campaign for the Memorial-University of Colorado Health lease deal. During the summer, she arranged television ads, public meetings, rallies and spoke at hundreds of events to push the deal through. And the success of the campaign was evident during the August election — 83 percent of voters gave the nod to the UCH lease, and a new hospital system was born.
Experts told local entrepreneurs that creating a vibrant entrepreneurial community would take 20 years, but they embraced the challenge. Local entrepreneur Etienne Hardre helped organize the popular Pitch Night — local entrepreneurs’ American Idol, where hopefuls make a five-minute pitch about their startup idea and hope to be discovered. It’s the Peak Venture Group’s effort to inspire fresh blood, new ideas and innovation. Brad Feld, one of Colorado’s entrepreneurial leaders, says Colorado Springs is laying the groundwork to become the next hotbed of entrepreneurial activity. This year, Colorado Springs Pitch Night, which draws up to 70 people per month, found a permanent location at the Epicentral co-working space on Tejon Street.
With Chris Jenkins at the helm, Nor’wood Development Group is leading new apartment complex development in Colorado Springs. The company announced in January that it would build more than 1,000 apartment units, including three “Class A” developments in Colorado Springs and one 240-apartment project in Fountain that it started in late 2011. This year, Nor’wood broke ground on a 360-unit apartment complex at its First & Main Town Center, which has extensive retail and restaurant development already onsite. Nor’wood also started building a hotel at First & Main this year and broke ground on its 260-unit North Point Apartments near Rockrimmon Boulevard and Delmonico Drive, with another 260-unit complex planned near Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road.
Just weeks after becoming the new executive director of the Business of Art Center in Manitou Springs in June, Natalie Johnson was faced with a major challenge. Vandals broke into one of the BAC buildings, stopped up the drains and left the faucets running overnight, flooding the center and Venue 515. Insurance covered most of the $100,000 in damage, but not all of it. Johnson contended that the organization could emerge from the disaster better and stronger — and it did. Johnson pushed through fears the organization wouldn’t make it, eventually raising the needed money and dramatically increasing BAC membership.
Christian Keesee, a banker and oilman, has done his best in the past seven years to revitalize Green Mountain Falls, the small town 11 miles west of Colorado Springs. He also launched projects to introduce art there through an annual Green Box Arts Festival. This winter, Keesee hosted the grand re-opening of the 1889-built Outlook Lodge, a six-room hotel. Keesee’s Kirkpatrick Bank also has made a play to double its local size, assembling a team of banking heavy hitters bringing decades of Colorado Springs banking knowledge and relationships. Kirkpatrick Bank has a $550 million portfolio, about $70 million in Colorado Springs. The bank’s area of expertise is commercial and industrial lending.
Amy Long, the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau vice president for marketing and membership, went into problem-solving mode after a negative reaction to the logo that accompanied the new city slogan, “Live it Up!” She called in local designers and marketing experts, and the group started over to come up with a new design that was highly praised. She jokes that the branding task force and the CVB are remembered as the group that got the city’s brand right — the second time. Then came the Waldo Canyon fire, and the CVB launched a “Welcome Back” campaign with Long tasked to find the money. Area businesses impressively ponied up $70,000 and the CVB won two grants totaling $110,000 to promote the region.
Many were skeptical when Sheriff Terry Maketa unveiled a proposed countywide property tax increase just three months before the November election. While it was clear that the sheriff’s office had been operating on a shoestring for years, it seemed unlikely that fiercely conservative county voters would support a hastily conceived new tax producing $17 million a year. Such measures are usually introduced long in advance, and benefit from carefully planned, well-financed campaigns led by private citizens, not elected officials. Maketa paid little attention to conventional wisdom, preferring to tell the story of his needs and let the numbers speak for themselves. His personal popularity, forthright conservatism and consistency of purpose carried the day, and ensured that his successor will not have to struggle with an undermanned, underfunded department.
When iManitou, the combined organization of Manitou Springs’ former economic development group, convention and visitors bureau and its chamber, needed to be restructured, the board called on long-time resident Marcy Morrison to lead the charge. Her community interests come from years of serving on the library board, school board, county commission, state Legislature and as Manitou mayor. Manitou tourism took a hit from the Waldo Canyon fire, and the iManitou board of directors decided to change its marketing plan to boost tourism year-round. In November, the board laid off COO Roger Miller citing budget constraints. Morrison, appointed to the iManitou board to represent residents’ interests, stepped in as volunteer COO and iManitou adjusted its 2012 budget. The organization is projecting a larger 2013 budget but is waiting to hear back on some grant money. One of the priorities will be marketing.
President and CEO of Neumann Systems Group, Dave Neumann started 2012 with no idea how tumultuous the year would be for his company, or for his pet project, a clean-coal scrubber called the NeuStream. Neumann’s $73 million contract with Colorado Springs Utilities had passed several City Councils — and more than one independent review — only to be temporarily stopped by the Utilities Board while it decided the fate of the Martin Drake Power Plant. As of today, the NeuStream is back in business, but that could change as the city negotiates with the Sierra Club, which has threatened to sue over alleged technical issues by CSU at the Drake facility.
The man behind the scenes at the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, local developer Doug Quimby steered the merger between the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. He served as president of the board during the transition and into the first months of the combined organization — hiring a new CEO for the group and helping develop a new, combined mission. Quimby also held a key position during the Memorial Health System RFP process, giving voice to business concerns about the hospital’s future. He’s involved with the Regional Leadership Forum, another effort to stimulate the local economy.
Four years ago, when attorney Perry Sanders bought out his partners and took control of the Mining Exchange Building, the historic structure was vacant and dilapidated. Within a few months, he announced that the building would become a luxury boutique hotel. That statement was greeted with scorn and incredulity by most of the downtown business community. Four years and $32 million later, Sanders opened the doors of the spectacularly renovated Mining Exchange Hotel. Is it a success? Hotel guests apparently think so: reviews on hotels.com give the Mining Exchange an average score of 4.8 out of a possible 5.
After Memorial Hospital’s previous CEO exited abruptly — and amid much controversy about his multi-million exit payment — CFO Mike Scialdone called for calm and then took the helm of the hospital. He is responsible for maintaining the hospital’s financial footing during tumultuous times, cutting some budget items and managing investments in order to make sure Memorial remained fiscally solvent during the transition. Now permanent CEO of Memorial under the new lease with University of Colorado Health, Scialdone is in charge of leading the hospital into the future.
Under the direction of University of Colorado Colorado Springs Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak, UCCS has grown into an economic driver in the community. UCCS now packs a $310 million economic punch to the local economy and is growing. This year, the university is building a $17.5 million student housing project and the $18.5 million Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences. Its professors are getting aggressive about technology transfer, partnering with businesses and licensing intellectual property; its business professors are working with entrepreneurs to spin off companies and technologies. And its physics and engineering professors are working closely with high-tech companies on research and development. Shockley-Zalabak has led UCCS to mega-growth and record student enrollment with millions in private donations even as state funding dwindled.
Lynn Telford, CEO of Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado, mobilized her operation quickly when the Waldo Canyon fire broke out. Along with the Care and Share staff, Telford worked tirelessly through long days of collecting and processing donated items while the fire raged. She and her team collected and processed more than 1.5 million pounds of food to support the community. Care and Share also distributed more than 750,000 pounds of food to evacuees, firefighters and emergency workers. In 23 days, Telford and her team collected and processed almost twice what they usually do in a year.