Local leaders feel hopeful about prospects for year to come

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Mayor Steve Bach

Colorado Springs

As Mayor Steve Bach looks to the new year, he’s optimistic about job creation in the Springs and he’s not backing down from his goal of 6,000 more civilians employed in the coming year.

In August, Bach asked Summit Economics to determine how many jobs would be necessary to get back to where the city was pre-2008 recession. Economists with the organization said it would take 6,000 new civilian jobs a year for three years to reach that level.

Bach says he believed then, and still does despite the looming fiscal cliff and threat of massive cuts in the Department of Defense through sequestration, that Colorado Springs can achieve that jobs goal. If Congress does not act and the military (along with defense contractors) is forced to make cuts, then the jobs goal will be revisited, he said.

“Until we know differently, then we need to work toward that goal of 6,000,” Bach said in an interview with the Business Journal.

In the meantime, the city will have its hands full with the issue of Martin Drake Power Plant. Bach, who is an ex officio, non-voting member of the Utilities Board, can’t vote on the issue but he has weighed in. His priority, he said, is for the city to deliver high-quality utilities at a low cost. For that reason, he said, he has questioned the financials.

In July, Bach asked the City Council, which acts as the Utilities Board, to re-examine its plans to install emission control equipment by Neumann Systems Group, which says its technology can clean sulfur dioxide from coal-burning plants. He questioned the amount of money being spent on an older plant like Drake.

“When I was told we were in the process of spending $120 million for a 70-year-old plant, that caught my attention,” Bach said. “That is a lot of money on an older plant.”

Since then, the fate of Drake and the use of the multi-million-dollar NeuStream cleaning technology has been up in the air.

“Whether Martin Drake continues or is decommissioned is not a top priority for me,” Bach said. “Making sure Utilities is using money wisely is.”

Colorado Springs government has much to do in 2013, Bach said. The city must create an environment that fosters job creation, continue to become more fiscally sustainable and reinvent some of the old ways of doing business, and continue to work together with the community, especially after what happened in the wake of the Waldo Canyon fire, the mayor said.

“We had a tough year with the Waldo Canyon fire. We had loss of life and people lost their homes,” Bach said. “But people came together and helped and I hope we can continue to do that.”

Aikta Marcoulier

Small Business Development Center

If Aikta Marcoulier, Small Business Development Center director, could pick a theme for 2013 it would be, “Be Prepared.”

Small-business owners learned a lot about themselves and their businesses after the Waldo Canyon fire, she said. They realized they needed help with long-term financial planning and with marketing. Hundreds of small businesses were evacuated from El Paso and Teller counties during the fire, which struck in June.

Some businesses were closed for three days, others as long as 10 days. After the fire, about 10 to 15 percent of small businesses said they were treading water.

“Even the businesses that had been around for a long time were affected,” Marcoulier said. “Even though many of them dug into their pockets and found a way to keep going, they were affected in a way that made them say, ‘Maybe I should sit down and find out how I can better plan for this situation in the future.’”

The SBDC will offer more financial planning and marketing classes in 2013. SBDC, in partnership with Ent Federal Credit Union and the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, will host a five-class series on small business and social media.

“Anything can happen,” Marcoulier said. “We realized that being aware of your business, being prepared in all elements from organization to having a Plan B, to insurance — it’s important to understand all the elements that could affect your business.”

Doug Price

Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau

In 2013, the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau has no intention of bringing up the Waldo Canyon fire. CVB staffers are hoping the images of the fire are long forgotten by would-be travelers.

“What we will do in 2013 is highlight that Colorado Springs is beautiful and vibrant and we welcome you,” said Doug Price, CVB president and CEO. “We are moving forward.”

One way to shift attention to small businesses is to give them more exposure through the CVB website. The organization is switching from a membership model, where only members could be touted on the CVB website and mobile apps, to a model that supports any tourism-related business on the CVB site.

“We think that more businesses that previously could not afford to be a part of the CVB or didn’t think there was a good return, will be able to be included with our website,” Price said.

There still is an option to pay a fee and be a marketing partner with the CVB for additional promotional opportunities, Price said. He would not disclose the fees and said the rates vary by business category and size of business.

“Frankly, it’s all about the visitor — allowing them to see all the possibilities that are here,” Price said. “We see that the community will benefit and be more fully represented and compete better against other destinations.”