Opinion: Pikes Peak region is open for business

News  /  Business

Johnna Reeder Kleymeyer

We’ve all been there. Shopping list in hand, ready to make that key purchase. You arrive at the storefront, the lights are on, you can see silhouettes inside, but are they open? Anxiously seeking signs of life, mind racing through your backup plan, a smiling face appears before you with the words “Yes, we’re open.” Phew.

Now picture this storefront on a much bigger scale, representing diverse industries, business sizes, and a growing population of 750,000 residents — the second-largest region in Colorado. This storefront is the entire business community in the City of Colorado Springs and El Paso County. And yes, we’re open for business. Small business, big business, growing business for those already here and bringing business from elsewhere to our community — we assist them all.

In 2022 we closed 10 economic development projects, attracting $746.7 million in capital investment, creating over 2,060 jobs with companies like Bluestaq and Microchip; and in December we announced Zivaro and Entegris’ decisions for major expansions in Colorado Springs. We launched a Deal Closing Fund to incentivize high-quality jobs that has already proven to be a competitive advantage. And our ardent advocacy for smart business growth and collaborative approach has proven highly effective with more announcements of efficiency and collaboration to come from us this year.

Post-pandemic and economic challenges keep talent acquisition as a top focus for our businesses. We’ve responded in a variety of ways. We launched Find Your COS, with initial talent programs: Hello Colorado Springs — a wraparound social and professional internship retention program and Connect Colorado Springs — a concierge program welcoming new-to-market candidates and prospects. We continue to elevate the Pikes Peak region with more than a dozen nationally earned media placements highlighting positive key messages about living and working here.

Business-friendly legislation drives the economy and we’ve been directly involved in both advocacy for and the education of our members. Our government affairs efforts provided opportunities for members to engage with elected officials at every level — locally with our “How to run for City Council” educational panel, at the state level with our Legislative Roundtable, and nationally as we led our D.C. Fly-in to lobby on defense, housing affordability and pro-business policy. We played a role on the Community Housing Affordability Task Force to advance attainable housing policies. We are southern Colorado’s voice of business at the State Capitol, and we’re ramping up for the 2023 legislative session.

Home to five military installations, 250+ defense and space companies, representing 44 percent of the region’s economy, this sector is stronger than ever. Existing mission sets bring new missions as well as expand our industrial base capabilities. In 2022 our Defense Development team conducted nearly 300 engagements and strategy sessions with partners and future partners, to include the first-ever communitywide defense industry event. Our strong relationships with the defense community statewide continue to expand our capabilities and bring together businesses of all sizes.

Thriving business communities must be inclusive of all voices, responsive, agile and connected regionwide. We mourned with our community after the Club Q tragedy and partnered with Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade and Exponential Impact, to launch a fund to support impacted businesses. We built our event programming with a focus on serving our community as a whole and actively seeking feedback from all. Being inclusive, collaborative, trustworthy and invested is part of what guides us in our drive to propel the business community.

These outcomes are just a few ways the Chamber & EDC is fueling business support, advocacy, and economic development in our region, supporting our purpose: to achieve economic prosperity for our region and act as a catalyst for business innovation and growth.

We’re here to support businesses of all sizes and industries in the Pikes Peak region. Your Chamber & EDC is uniquely postured to influence, convene, and leverage the power of the business community; uniting our region to win globally. As a community, we have a lot to be proud of, looking back on 2022 — and to prepare for in 2023. We’ve got a tough legislative session ahead of us. We have opportunities and challenges that face our growing and thriving community. You can be assured that we are at the table representing business in all these decisions. Colorado Springs and El Paso County are definitely open for business.

Johnna Reeder Kleymeyer is president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Corporation.

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