EDCC hosted its inaugural Regional Economic Development Forum on June 13, the first in a series of forums scheduled for 2016, at the Pinery at the Hill in Colorado Springs. The forum was presented by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, (OEDIT).
Inspired by Park, Teller, El Paso, and Pueblo counties, this one-day forum focused on issues that affect many communities around state. Presentations on broadband accessibility, small business and workforce development needs, transportation and infrastructure, provided attendees tools and resources to take back and implement in their own communities.
Attended by economic development professionals, policy leaders, and area businesses, the forum also addressed infrastructure projects unique to Colorado Springs and Pueblo including transportation improvement plans for the Pikes Peak and Pueblo Area Council of Governments; the Southern Delivery System project which required important regional relationships and collaboration between Colorado Springs, Security, and Pueblo West; and successful community projects that have helped economic development in their regions.
Featured presenters included Craig Casper, regional transportation director for the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, and Jerry Forte, CEO of the Colorado Springs Utilities.
Casper announced Pikes Peak’s six-year transportation plan on Monday. The Pikes Peak region is experiencing a $1.35 billion backlog on pavement maintenance averaging only $31.75 annual investment per resident. Denver spends $141.62 per capita annually on road maintenance, Albuquerque spends $65.29 per resident, and Fort Collins spends $60.75 per resident annually on road maintenance. “One of the funding problems relates to the stagnation of state gas taxes in Colorado, which have remained at 40 cents a gallon since 1992,” Casper said. “If the price had been indexed to construction costs, the gas tax would be 98 cents per gallon. To maintain the existing road system across the state now, the gas tax would need to be increased to $1.26 a gallon,” he added.
Forte, presented the Southern Delivery System (SDS) project, a large regional water project that brings Arkansas River water stored in Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security, and Pueblo West. For over 20 years regional relationships and collaboration were the key drivers in making this multi-million dollar project possible. “The availability of water is critical to economic sustainability and growth,” Forte said. “One of the first things a [business] prospect would ask is, ‘Do you have sufficient water? Do you have sufficient power?” Forte also presented the official SDS Challenge Coin to three strategic regional partners that were an integral part of the project’s completion; Roy Heald, general manager for Security Water & Sanitation Districts, Mike Fink, water resources engineer for the City of Fountain, and Darrin Tangeman, district manager for Pueblo West.
Kelly Flenniken, board chair for the EDCC, presented Colorado Springs Utilities EDCC’s first Regional Cooperation Award. The project’s planning and permitting spanned over 2 decades. The challenges of a constantly increasing regulatory and ever changing political climate, made regional collaboration a critical component to this project. With 3 different Mayors and at least 8 City Council’s there was a lot of regional relationships that had to be established and maintained over the course of this project.
Additional event supporters included:
Gold Sponsor, Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance; Platinum Sponsors, Black Hills Energy and El Paso County Economic Development; Coffee Sponsor, Pikes Peak SBDC