City lags at the wrong time

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Usually in this space, we look at issues through an upbeat lens, helping readers see the positive aspects of the Colorado Springs-area business community.

We think it’s important to make sure more people hear and learn about the good things happening in our midst. But sometimes it’s just as vital to share and analyze what’s holding us back, as has been the case recently with our rising volume of calls for business leaders to stand up more to our local elected leaders.

But this is not about touching on that subject every few minutes, then moving on and hoping for the best. It’s becoming more of a crusade for us, especially when we hear that the City Council might be on the verge of pulling its annual funding support for economic development via the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.

Really? Here we are, apparently stuck in malaise, unable to attract companies that could bring many new primary jobs to the area, instead sending messages of political instability and resistance to progress that scare away outsiders. So while other cities have bounced back strongly from the recession, Colorado Springs has lagged.

Those aren’t just rumors. Here are some chilling facts, courtesy of the National Association of Realtors in its first-quarter report for 2014:

While other cities have bounced back strongly from the recession, Colorado Springs has lagged.

Nationally, of 170 metropolitan statistical areas (called MSAs), 125 reported increases in median existing single-family home prices for Q1 of this year. Denver recorded a median sales price increase of 10.4 percent, with Boulder up 8 percent. Among other cities considered to be our peers or role models, Austin (Texas) went up 7.9 percent, Boise (Idaho) up 8.9 percent, Portland (Ore.) up 10.3 percent, Lansing (Mich.) up 23.4 percent, Madison (Wis.) up 7.4 percent, Reno (Nev.) up 16.9 percent, Wichita (Kan.) up 5.4 percent, Salt Lake City up 7 percent and Omaha up 2.3 percent.

What about Colorado Springs? Our market was DOWN by 1.4 percent, ranking us about No. 132. We’re among the cities known to be struggling, such as Atlantic City, N.J.; Rockford, Ill.; Pensacola, Fla.; and Youngstown and Akron, Ohio.

We also see other cities in the negative that lean heavily on the military, such as Shreveport, La.; Fort Walton Beach-Destin, Fla.; Huntsville, Ala.; and Norfolk-Virginia Beach, Va. Yet, other markets with a strong military (or defense contractor) presence are doing much better, including several in Texas: Abilene (up 4.2 percent), Amarillo (up 14.8 percent), Houston (up 12.8 percent) and San Antonio (up 8 percent).

What message can we glean from being so far down the list?

First, it tells the 100,000-plus individuals or families who own homes in the area that our property values are stagnant as a whole. That’s the result of insufficient local leadership — too many elected leaders who are unresponsive to (or unaware of) the serious need to work better with the business community.

We like what we’re seeing on some fronts, in particular the effort to fast-track workforce development. But in a key category, it’s not encouraging to see us at 132nd out of 170.

What can we do about it? The next city election is 10 months away. We need strong, knowledgeable candidates who truly care about business. Who will step up? nCSBJ