Poll sends forceful message

Filed under: Economic Development,Print | Tags:

Every week, as regular readers know, the Business Journal submits a question to our audience by way of our website and daily email. We try to make the topics, and the wording, as neutral as possible to attract a legitimate weekly response.

Such was the case for our latest simple query: What should be Colorado Springs’ top priority in economic development?

We felt the poll could be instructive, both for the area’s elected officials and the Regional Business Alliance. It never hurts to hear what a healthy sampling of constituents is thinking on an important issue.

Part of a useful poll is condensing possible responses into a small but wide-ranging group. In this case, the options for a top priority covered as much of the spectrum as possible:

• Retaining the companies already here and helping them expand;

• Creating a special niche, such as outdoor recreation, and building around it;

• Being more aggressive in recruiting businesses, such as manufacturers;

• Focus on more high-tech and cloud storage companies;

• None of the above.

The first two alternatives were tailored intentionally to align with the Regional Business Alliance’s basic priorities. The third choice, being more aggressive, would fit the usual mission statement of a large-market economic development group with plenty of resources at its disposal. The high-tech and cloud storage option has been considered by many as one of Colorado Springs’ likely strategies, based on developments in recent years.

The bottom line is, many CSBJ readers have no problem with our city/county and the Business Alliance aiming higher.

And, of course, it made sense to give respondents the choice to give the total thumbs-down — likely opposing any kind of tactic aimed at growing the area’s business and economic base.

We tried not to influence the outcome, but from the start we felt the second option — creating a special niche (most likely outdoor recreation) and building around it — would probably prevail. We were incorrect. Instead, from the start, another answer dominated with 39 percent or more, while the rest varied between 11 and 22 percent.

It was No. 3, being more aggressive. 

That’s intriguing, but clearly the current view from the business community. And granted, many area residents oppose offering lucrative incentives to companies that might move or locate here. Then again, perhaps that’s just a loud minority.

Let’s be clear: There is no realistic way a city can be “more aggressive in recruiting businesses,” especially manufacturers with an abundance of primary jobs, without offering a potential variety of incentives. Granted, some enticements can be performance-based, not payable until a company has delivered on its commitments. But there are other ways to lure major employers, including manufacturers, such as help with providing a site and infrastructure as well as tax breaks.

The bottom line is, many CSBJ readers have no problem with our city/county and the Business Alliance aiming higher and assembling the kind of ammunition that it takes to win some of those bigger economic development battles.

Does this one poll mean that will happen?

Obviously not, but it should send an encouraging message to those — including candidates for local office — who believe Colorado Springs should become more aggressive, more proactive and more ambitious.