Such was the case Monday afternoon at the close of Council’s usual informal meeting, now known as “work sessions” before the regular formal gathering on Tuesday.
The group had spent nearly four hours talking about the news on planned military cuts and how they might affect our region, who has power over what regarding City for Champions, then listening to a presentation about the need to give Utilities CEO Jerry Forte a lot more money (apparently to avoid an early retirement that might be even more costly).
We’ll get back to some of that. Finally, nothing else was on the agenda, but Council President Keith King had one more item up his sleeve.
What the city needs to do, King said, is set up a new “Commercial Aeronautical Zone” on the west side of the Colorado Springs Airport.
What? Wait, I said to myself, don’t turn off that TV yet. This could be worth watching. And it was.
This clearly was, and is, one of those behind-the-scenes maneuvers by city officials hoping not to create a negative stir — or any kind of stir, for that matter. I quickly found a little more information buried in the Council’s supporting documents for this week’s meetings, tucked into an “Agenda Planner Review” under new business for the upcoming March 11 meeting.
It said King would be proposing “an ordinance pertaining to a sales or use tax exemption within a Commercial Aeronautical Zone” — exactly as mentioned Monday. (Actually, Mayor Steve Bach first proposed it in 2012, so it’s not King’s original idea.)
King said waiving the tax had worked in helping other cities’ airports. Council President Pro-Tem Merv Bennett chimed in, saying his brother was involved with an airport commission in Indianapolis that did the same thing with great results.
Then, right on cue, outgoing Chief of Staff Laura Neumann spoke up. Just 24 hours from her farewell, Neumann said the mayor’s office was very pleased to see the airport proposal, and is totally supportive of it moving forward.
Nobody said a discouraging word. And all this is a good sign, by the way. It should tell us that, given the right circumstances, and without a power struggle to muddy the water, our elected leaders still can work together.
Obviously, there had been more going on behind the curtain. We heard one small company with a handful of jobs might relocate to this zone, but that obviously wasn’t the reason for going to this much trouble with creating a sales and use tax exemption and having Bach’s office paying so much attention. King hinted something else might be in the works, and he even said that everyone might be gathering “for an announcement in the next 10 days or so.”
King didn’t elaborate, but we’ve learned enough from sources to conclude Colorado Springs is in the running for a company possibly putting a large operation here, building some kind of aircraft. If it happens, it could be the brightest economic news for the area since … it’s hard to remember when. We haven’t heard the name of the company, but we have heard that this could mean many hundreds of good-paying jobs.
It’s also true that one plant could lead to more, providing direct opportunities for graduates of UCCS, Colorado Tech and other programs developing the kind of expertise needed by the kinds of companies that might utilize the Commercial Aeronautical Zone.
Yes, other cities are competing against us, and some have powerful ammunition (including a more plentiful qualified workforce) so this is not a given. But at least we have different groups working together on this for a common purpose.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the same groups can cooperate in every way. Out of that same Council meeting, and the formal session Tuesday, it became more and more apparent that the opponents to City for Champions are closer to taking off their gloves.
What does that mean? Likely a concerted effort to torpedo the whole deal.
Why not view City for Champions in a way more similar to what’s happening on the west side of the airport? Nobody seems to mind the fact that the Commercial Aeronautical Zone came this far behind closed doors, away from public view, a well-kept secret. So why not figure out how to make City for Champions become reality, instead of trying to kill it over power struggles?
If there’s a possibility out there that can be positive for Colorado Springs’ future, why can’t we work through our differences? We need to start finding answers to questions such as these.
If we don’t, shame on us. If we do, we can remake this city — and generations beyond us will appreciate us for it.