Mike Jorgensen is everywhere these days — playing jazz guitar at the Colorado Springs Conservatory, serving on the boards of three nonprofit groups, and heading up the board for the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo.
He’s about to get even busier — Jorgensen’s just been named chairman of the board for the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.
“I just think I have trouble saying no,” says Jorgensen, president and dealer/operator at Red Noland Cadillac. “But I find being busy energizes me; it gives me focus.”
Jorgensen is familiar with both organizations that merged to become the Business Alliance. He served on the boards of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and on the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. — for a while, his board time overlapped. So he understands the direction that the new organization must go as it creates a single mission.
“It’s got to start with building relationships,” he said. “It’s about pushing the economic drivers and focusing on getting this just right. We have to push for the right direction.”
Jorgensen said much of the work merging the two groups had been behind the scenes while the Business Alliance established its new goals.
Now, he said, it’s time to bring other business leaders to the table, mine local expertise and create a dynamic business environment.
“If we’re going to do that, it’s not up to the organization,” he said. “It’s up to the business community. If we’re going to move forward, it has to be owned, crafted and cared for by the business community as a whole.”
Building those relationships with local business leaders will be Jorgensen’s focus during the next year. The group has built an “engagement matrix” — a chart that allows business leaders to get involved with the Business Alliance and use their expertise.
“We need business segment leaders to get on board,” he said. “And we’re moving toward that engagement now. That’s the big goal for the year. We need people with a depth and knowledge in different areas to help us craft our strategy and vision. We’re not doing this in a vacuum.”
It can’t be done overnight, he says. The group merged last spring — and much of the year was spent getting organized.
“As much as we’d like to go from zero to 60 in seconds — like our Cadillacs do — we can’t move that fast,” he said. “The background has to be there; we have to lay the groundwork.”
Jorgensen views his Business Alliance role through the lens of previous business experience. Before joining Red Noland, he was a certified public accountant for a local firm. But for him, accounting wasn’t all about the numbers.
“My favorite part of being a CPA was the relationships,” he said. “And I got to see into a lot of different businesses, how they operate, what their difficulties are. It was an invaluable experience.”
Red Noland, one of the firm’s clients at the time, had an opening for a controller. Jorgensen left the accounting firm to join the car business.
“I wanted to work for Red more than I wanted to be in the car business,” he said. “But I fell in love with the car business.”
In the end, the two jobs — and his various civic commitments — are very similar.
“It’s about those relationships,” he said. “We find out what customers need, and what they want. We learn about who they are. And along the way, we sell some cars.”
It works the same way at the Business Alliance, he said. If everyone gets on the same page, and works to create a dynamic program, the jobs will materialize. The group has formed an economic advisory council to help.
“It’s not all about jobs,” he said. “The jobs opportunities will come if we are paying attention to the right things. We can reach jobs goals if the infrastructure is in place. We need to get the work done first, develop ideas.”
Because he believes in relationships, Jorgensen believes the Business Alliance will ultimately be successful.
“I plan to take a personal role — listen to what folks have to say,” he said. “I’ve been meeting people for coffee, having lunch. And people really have some great ideas, great synergy. But that only comes from listening — being accessible. I think we can come together as a business community, but only if we put aside differences. We can acknowledge those differences without having them fracture our approach.”
But success will depend on more than just lunches and coffee, he said.
“We need financial backing, too,” he said. “If we’re going to lead the economic development effort, if we’re going to push these new ideas, we need to be well-funded. We need that funding based not only on faith that we’re getting somewhere, but on a significant return on investment.”