For those of us who believe in the future of Colorado Springs, it has been admittedly a tough start to 2013.
We cringed at the news that Atmel Corp., a longtime local presence, has laid off 200 workers from its semiconductor plant in south Colorado Springs. Those are good-paying jobs, but Atmel’s business has been sagging for a year.
Along with many local leaders, we’re exasperated by Congress refusing to approve $19.8 million in much-needed emergency funds for Colorado to deal with flood mitigation after the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires last summer. The request had made it through the Senate before the end of 2012, but the House never acted on it and the bill died. Now the House refuses to attach the $19.8 million to other legislation.
Another unexpected bombshell came from Frontier Airlines, making sharp cuts in its Colorado Springs service despite having named us as a “focus” city just last year. The carrier, known for its reasonable prices, will be ending its three flights a day to and from Denver in early March, after curtailing its nonstop service to San Diego and Orlando.
Lest we forget, we’re also not seeing positive signs from Congress about a possible agreement on the debt ceiling, increasing the chances that sequestration actually might happen in March, bringing potentially severe cuts to defense.
And as if all that weren’t enough, now we’re learning that the Sierra Club has research showing that air pollution from Martin Drake Power Plant won’t be sufficiently improved by the NeuStream coal-scrubbing technology to meet federal standards. That could mean Drake’s closure sooner than anticipated, inevitably meaning higher electric rates for residential and business customers.
Despite all that, though, Colorado Springs’ business and political leaders haven’t lost their way. Almost 150 of them gathered Tuesday at the Antlers Hilton for the first Breakfast With the Journal, which we’ve planned quarterly to address important issues in our community. For this debut, the group heard three concise, superbly prepared, enlightening presentations.
Memorial Hospital CEO Mike Scialdone outlined the progress and challenges facing local health care, emphasizing the need for providers and employers to focus on wellness and “health” as well as “care” in the future.
Scott Bryan, head of Bryan Construction Inc. and an active force in nurturing the local defense-related economy, talked about the rising pressure on our city to prepare for the next BRAC (base realignment and closures) and ward off other cities wanting what we have.
To wrap it up, Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway (formerly Sen. Wayne Allard’s chief of staff) described how the successful drilling for oil and gas has transformed the Greeley area’s economy and financial health in just four years.
Any of them could have easily used the entire time frame, but this way the local leaders received a quick, in-depth synopsis on all three. And for us, it was a chance to show that the Business Journal wants to help lead, and facilitate, the conversations about the future of Colorado Springs.
We can’t ignore the bad news that comes along the way. But we still believe our city is headed in the right direction.