by Pam Zubeck
Step one came earlier this year when the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce merged with the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp., retagging the organization as the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC.
Now, the group has a new name: the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.
The new title shaves one word from the group's title, but still is a mouth full. Chamber officials say the new name signifies that the alliance is covering both bases for the two organizations. (The chamber used to provide support to existing businesses, and the EDC recruited new business and industry.)
"These two leading organizations dedicated to business growth and prosperity are now working as one, powerfully bonded and strategically aligned with our partners in the region and with the broader Front Range," the alliance said in a news release.
“One of the primary focuses of this new organization is its commitment to serving our existing companies in the region, both those engaged in interstate commerce and those that survive on the local economy,” said Joe Raso, president and chief executive officer of the Business Alliance. “Businesses already operating and prospering in our region play a vital role in our efforts to grow the local economy and recruit new enterprises. They know the resources that have madetheir companies successful, and are excellent ambassadors for our market. They are also the first to identify opportunities for changes that will help ourbusiness community grow, and that is why they are the primary focus of our work.
“Our name and logo establishes a single identity for two organizations that merged in February 2012,” said Raso. “This is a big step as we set our new course and continue to work as the primary advocate for the business community in the Colorado Springs/Pikes Peak region dedicated to serving businesses of all sizes and to building regional economic growth and prosperity.” While the two organizations merged earlier this year, they moved under one roof in late August with offices in downtown Colorado Springs at 102 S. Tejon Street, Suite 430.
The board is working on a 20-year "vision for our region," the release said, focusing on existing businesses of all sizes, pumping up its "leadership role in government affairs," improving communications, creating a way to develop the workforce to satisfy businesses' needs, and "establishing a culture of innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit that will attract and retain the young, diverse and educated minds important to the survival of our businesses and region."
The merger of the Chamber and EDC, both of whom claim to want to create jobs, ironically, resulted in layoffs within its own organization. Several of those wound up with government jobs, most notably Stephannie Finley, now working at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs in a newly created half-time position that pays $57,500 a year.
But Raso says in an interview that there's no irony. He says the two merged organizations, which at one time had 35 positions combined, now have 20 and will rely on outsourcing for some functions. It's hired Lisa Bachman for communications work and Kevin Walker to handle governmental affairs, for example, he says.
"The first thing we need to do is be effective with our resources," he says. "Our job is not to make our organization grow." He adds the alliance will continue to change to meet the needs of the business community.
The alliance will continue and enhance the Chamber and EDC's role in the following public initiatives, according to the release:
· Supporting the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority sales tax extension for transportation infrastructure improvements, which will be voted on this November, and will pump tens of millions of dollars into the local economy and contractors' hands.
· Exploring governance/ownership of Colorado Springs Utilities, owned by its customers for roughly 100 years, and the future of the Drake Power Plant, which provides more than a quarter of the city's base load of power.
· Supporting the lease of Memorial Health System to University of Colorado Health, a 40-year deal that closes Monday and gives the city an upfront payment of $259 million that's already tied up in a lawsuit the city filed to try to get out of paying money the Public Employees Retirement Association on behalf of Memorial's 4,000 employees.
“We’re also visiting national leaders for discussions on the military, transportation, sports economy, fire mitigation and education,” Raso said in the release. “These are sectors critical to our economy and the Business Alliance is going to establish itself as a visionary leader in designing a strategic plan of action and community vision based on our assets and competitive advantages.”
The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, with more than 1,500 members, is the primary advocate of the Colorado Springs/Pikes Peak region business community.
For information, go here.