Quick: What’s the best economic news for Colorado Springs in the past month or two?
Let’s see, Quantum announced it would cut 170 of the 305 jobs from its manufacturing operation here, but that’s better than a total shutdown.
No? OK, the state economic development commission will consider Colorado Springs’ application for sales-tax rebates to help pay for more than $200 million in tourism-related projects. Of course, that’s no guarantee, and nothing would be completed and open for business until perhaps 2017 — if then.
Wait, we know. Our best news came when the Pentagon announced that its planned 11 days of unpaid furloughs for civilian workers at military facilities would be cut to six. So for most, those furloughs should end this week.
That means at least 6,000 area residents won’t be docked 20 percent of their pay from mid-August through the end of September. Of course, some (many?) of those employees are military retirees, so they simply couldn’t set aside as much for their nest-eggs.
Yet, many locals would agree with that answer: The best news is that the bad news wasn’t much worse.
Jill Gaebler brings the refreshing spark Colorado Springs needs, leading the conversation.
That doesn’t translate into economic prosperity. From all indications, as a community, we’ve lowered our expectations. And that doesn’t feel right.
At the same time, we’ve pinned our future on tourism projects that are supposed to attract 449,000 new visitors every year, are predicted to create 750 new jobs, plus more in related new businesses, and are the economic salvation of Colorado Springs.
Excuse me for asking, but I have one question:
What is Plan B? Or perhaps — is there a Plan B? There certainly should be. And it might not be that different.
Yes, cultivating tourism has to be part of any solution. We have the mountains, Olympic presence and so much outdoor recreation. We have great events, though we could have more.
But we also need new faces. New approaches. New priorities.
And new ambassadors, like Jill Gaebler, a rookie on the Colorado Springs City Council. Of all our local elected officials, Gaebler is emerging as a bright, energetic yet gutsy 46-year-old we need to help lead us into the future.
She was an Air Force officer. She’s fiscally conservative, but she’s also an idealist, and what’s wrong with that?
Gaebler brings the refreshing spark Colorado Springs needs, not just sitting at the table but leading the conversation, as we try to attract new businesses, employers and major investors. She also doesn’t like seeing our city miss out on opportunities to make us better.
That became more obvious this week, when news spread that the parent company of super-cool, customer-friendly Trader Joe’s will open its third Colorado location — two in Denver, one in Boulder — with no plans to consider Colorado Springs. For those who have enjoyed shopping at Trader Joe’s across the West, Santa Fe or elsewhere, it’s just another slap.
But while many turned the other cheek as usual, Gaebler went on Facebook and vented, delivering a powerful message:
“Denver and Boulder. Does anyone wonder why? If we want results, we must have the courage to do things differently and shall I say … progressively.”
That was a blast of fresh air, and she’s right. We should have been camping on Trader Joe’s doorstep, with Gaebler and others like Robin Roberts of Pikes Peak National Bank leading the charge, asking for a meeting to talk about the real Colorado Springs. And offering helpful options for acquiring property or existing empty storefronts.
That same day, Gaebler posted her frustration about a little-known company leaving Colorado Springs for Denver. Her comment: “Resource Land Holdings, LLC is a great, local company that contributes to our community and provides high paying jobs for many locals. This fabulous company is moving to Denver because they can’t recruit enough young professionals in Colorado Springs. When will our leaders begin making decisions that draw and keep young professionals in our community?”
When? Why not now?
We have to create a new personality, and we must do it with our best leaders in their 30s and 40s. Not those still hanging on in their 60s and 70s.
We need a strategy: more events, more trendy businesses, more chances for Jill Gaebler and others like her to assert themselves, especially elected leaders working with the Business Alliance.
That’s our best hope. What are we waiting for?