Every year about this time, the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance puts together a trip to Washington, D.C., for the area’s business and political leaders.
Some of the visits have been more productive than others, depending on who was available at the nation’s capital to listen to local concerns. It’s safe to say that no previous group has had better timing than the bunch who spent most of this week inside the Beltway.
That message came across within an hour after the Springs visitors convened Monday afternoon at a hotel about a half-mile from the White House.
The list of possibilities they gave us was incredible. But we have to act quickly. Or the money could go elsewhere.”
As most of the leaders flew into the nation’s capital, Business Alliance CEO Joe Raso and others on his staff already were on the ground, bouncing from one meeting to the next, addressing issues that matter to the Pikes Peak region.
They met with an Oklahoma congressman who is sponsoring a bill to give much-needed, limited-liability protections to the national governing bodies of Olympic sports. Softball is headquartered in Oklahoma City, but many of the other NGBs are based in Colorado Springs, so the bill is helpful enough that the Business Alliance folks agreed to help build support among Colorado’s lawmakers in Congress.
The local group also met with officials from the Economic Development Administration, part of the Department of Commerce. Last year the EDA gave the Springs $100,000 after the Waldo Canyon fire to help in promoting the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s “Welcome Back” tourism campaign to salvage the summer.
But now, after two fires and related floods, the EDA quickly understood Colorado Springs needed more. As Raso put it, “The list of possibilities they gave us was incredible. But we have to act quickly or the money could go elsewhere.”
The good news is that EDA’s policy is to respond to such requests within 20 days, and in his previous position Raso saw firsthand how that meant $30 million in flood aid for Iowa.
Meanwhile, the Business Alliance’s military expert, Andy Merritt, was meeting with Department of Defense officials about issues ranging from traumatic brain injuries to sequestration and Colorado Springs placing a much higher priority on missile defense. And staying on the military topic, Army Col. Dave Grosso, the Fort Carson garrison commander, followed Merritt’s report by telling the group that the Army is looking at “draconian” cuts if sequestration continues. He added that senior Pentagon officials are talking again about redistributing assets “over the entire Army.”
What that means, in simple terms, would be another BRAC (base reduction and closure) process for the military, perhaps as soon as 2017.
All of that merely set the stage for two more full days of meetings, as the Springs group broke into smaller packs and swarmed across the capital, addressing issues as diverse as health and wellness, business policy and infrastructure.
Something else stood out among the local delegation: Everyone was on the same page. No arguments, no petty undercutting. Just everyone looking for answers, advice and assistance.
They called this trip “2013 Impact D.C.” And that could not have been more appropriate.