In a speech to a star-studded crowd at The Broadmoor hotel Friday night, Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper got a rousing ovation and even a few hoo-ah’s when he said that all of Colorado needs to be more pro-military.
Hickenlooper, who was the keynote speaker at the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce’s 118th annual dinner, hammered on economic development throughout his speech as the solution to all of Colorado’s problems. And the military, he said, will play a starring role in his recipe for success.
As he described how he plans to turn around Colorado’s foundering economy by encouraging businesses, Hickenlooper asked, “As we do that, as we change our culture… how do we make the whole state pro-military?”
The room exploded in applause.
“The entire state is connected, every part of it, to the U.S. military,” Hickenlooper continued.
Supporting and hopefully expanding Colorado’s military presence, he said, is “not just patriotism. It’s also good business.”
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano said he was “delighted” with Hickenlooper’s remarks.
“That’s precisely what we’re about,” said Soriano, who is also vice-chairman of the chamber’s military affairs committee.
Hickenlooper’s approach is “a huge, huge difference from the previous administration,” said state Sen. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs. “It’s the strong message that needs to be sent to the military, that we support them and we embrace them and we welcome more of them.”
Hickenlooper sounded like a Republican throughout his speech as well. He said he doesn’t want to raise taxes but aims to save the state by cutting fat from state government and putting the onus on the private sector to create jobs.
“We have to make government smaller and more effective, and we’re going to do that,” Hickenlooper said. “If you have insufficient funding, and you’re not going to raise taxes, you have to create an expansion of your businesses.”
El Paso County Commissioner Jim Bensberg said, “I didn’t vote for John Hickenlooper, but I thought he gave a great speech. He addressed the whole idea of Colorado being open for business.”
Said Cadman, “I’m pretty excited. If he’s as focused on making Colorado a job-friendly environment as the Republican caucus is, then Colorado’s going to have a great year.”
Bensberg also pointed out that Hickenlooper has connections to the Springs — he revitalized the old Cheyenne Hotel and founded the popular Phantom Canyon Brewing
Co. Because of that, Bensberg said he thinks Hickenlooper will give the Springs the attention it deserves.