Business Alliance leaders expecting year of action

Filed under: Focus,Print | Tags:,

New hires, implementing a newly created vision and even more interaction with local industry top the list of things to expect from the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance in the next year.

Created in early 2012, the Business Alliance is the result of a merger between the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. The group spent most of 2012 working to revamp its mission, set goals and create a vision of the region in 2035 — all of which will be revealed in 2013.

“The board is finishing the final approval of the new mission and vision,” said Business Alliance CEO Joe Raso, who took over that job last spring. “So we’ll be releasing both the long-term vision and three- to five-year goals in the first quarter.”

The new vision will be a long-term, data-filled plan, Raso said, which will actualize what the group envisions the region’s business climate to be in 2035. It will also contain short-term goals to help the organization and the area reach that point.

“We aren’t going to say, ‘this is where we need to be,’ and then just sit back,” he said. “We’re going to outline the steps we have to take to get there.”

Basically, the “grand plan” is to create an environment where job growth outpaces population growth, said Chris Blees, a Business Alliance board member and CEO of accounting firm BiggsKofford.

“Our job is business development,” Blees said. “Really, things like job counts are not necessary, it’s a lower-level measure. It sounds lofty, but we want to increase the economic rate of growth — creating a bigger pie and making sure everyone gets a bigger piece of it.”

The vision statement will encompass 32 different economic sectors and is the result of conversations with representatives of the military and education, and state economic officials. It will contain very specific metrics and easily measured goals, he said.

The newly merged group realigned its staff, laying off some people and rehiring for positions that others vacated. Hiring will continue in 2013, with the addition of two events coordinators, Raso said.

“There’s a general perception that we’re going to devastate events,” he said. “But as we started to look at them, we’re going to focus on the value programs. We might not do as many, and we might have different events for different reasons, with a different focus.”

The alliance will still focus on its signature events, things like the Excellence in Industry awards, the state of the city and the state of the region.

First, though, the Business Alliance will host a State of the State on Jan. 11 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, with Gov. John Hickenlooper as keynote speaker just before the start of the 2013 General Assembly. (Admission is free for the 8:30 a.m. event; call 884-2832 to register.)

The group plans to hire someone to serve as a “concierge” for members — to guide people who want to volunteer and be involved into opportunities where their talents and experience can best be used.

Finally, Raso will hire a lobbyist in 2013 to work with the region’s state delegation on important business bills.

“I met with (Sen.) John Morse, and (Rep.) Mark Waller to talk about the enterprise zone tax credit,” he said. “We’ve talked about modifying it, because as it stands, it’s not beneficial to the business community. We’ve talked about workforce development issues for the region as well.”

In 2013, the group will focus on building relationships, not only with the General Assembly, but with industry groups like the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry.

The Business Alliance will also weigh in on the April City Council race; voters can expect to see its recommendations for the six available positions sometime in February.

But mostly, the group will focus on implementing the plans created in 2012.

“In 2013, people are going to start to see implementation of the strategy,” Blees said. “Realigning staff, hiring new people and setting the mission all happened in 2012. In 2013, we’re going to see more action. We’re going to be the ‘go-to’ organization for business development.”