The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance (ReBA) is about to conclude it annual October visit to Washington, wherein local business and political leaders engage the Potomac power structure, meet decision makers, and gain some understanding of how Washington works — or doesn’t work.
Our nation’s capital is breathtakingly beautiful at this time of year, so you have to work hard to avoid having fun.
In 2009, CSBJ signed me up as a participant (alas, no such offer was forthcoming this year). The list of attendees was impressive, as were the folks we met with.
U.S. Chamber President/CEO Tom Donohue met with us at length, as did Sen. Mark Udall, Sen. Michael Bennet, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Rep. Doug Lamborn helped put together a morning session with half a dozen Republican heavyweights (one Democrat sourly referred to it as “Dancing around the Facts with Stars.”)
Taking a break with Tim Leigh outside the hearing room, the two of us chatted with an attractive woman who was searching for the event venue. No entourage, so we figured she was a low-level congressional staffer. Like Tim, she hailed from the upper Midwest, so they kidded back and forth in North Dakotan (you betcha!).
After a few minutes, she headed for the room.
“They’re no fun. “ I said, “Stay here and hang out with us.”
“I’d love to,” she said, “but I promised Doug I’d talk to you guys.”
And so the week went. It was a rare treat to rub shoulders with Washington insiders who could actually make things happen, to raise our region’s visibility, and, most of all, to build relationships with members of the local business community who went on the trip.
I doubt whether this year’s trip has been as fruitful. It’s a presidential election year, Congress isn’t in session and most of the Washington power structure is on the road. The staffers and low-level appointees that are available to meet with the ReBA delegation are nice folks, no doubt – but they may be jobless by January.
That may be why the public sector is so over-represented. Of the 36 attendees, four are ReBA employees, and 16 are elected officials or public sector employees.
Breaking down the numbers:
-Four El Paso County Commissioners (Sallie Clark, Darryl Glenn, Amy Lathen and Peggy Littleton)
-Three City Councilors (Brandy Williams, Merv Bennett and Val Snider)
-Three Colorado Springs Utilities managers.
-Two senior employees from UCCS
-El Paso County Administrator Jeff Green and EPC communications boss Dave Rose.
-Convention & Visitors Board CEO Doug Price (grouped with the public sector, since $3.2 million of the organization’s budget comes from city taxes).
-One U.S. Army officer.
I’m sure that all of the various teams are enjoying themselves, learning a few things, and working diligently – wish I was there!
Still, the action is elsewhere. Maybe ReBA and the junketeers should have pooled their money, rented a fancy room in Denver this week, and hosted Team Romney and Team Obama before, during and after tonight’s debate.
For once, guys, Colorado is the center of things – you’re missing the big event!
And by the way, the weather is amazing…