Building region's economic future the goal for new forum

February 25, 2011

For more than two years, a community effort dubbed Operation 6035 has wrestled with how to plan and improve the region’s economic future.

On Friday, the group turned the page on that lengthy initial phase and passed the baton to a new group, initially called the Regional Leadership Forum, whose mission will be to keep local business and community leaders talking, planning and coordinating those economic efforts.

One of the new group’s first tasks will be to come up with a catchier name than “Regional Leadership Forum,” said Doug Quimby, chairman of the board for the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. and a member of the 6035 effort.

“We’ll come up with a cool name,” he said.

The forum will include all of the major players in local economic development: the EDC, the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, Experience Colorado Springs (the convention and visitors bureau), the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the city and county, the Colorado Springs Sports Corp. and others. Those charter members will be supplemented by up to 100 additional members, representing local educational, business, military and community groups.

The important thing, Quimby said, is that the forum will be a place where all of the major players can sit down and hash things out, or where big issues can be discussed. Lack of that kind of coordination was one of the key points in the initial Operation 6035 report released in late 2009.

“It will be an easy place to go when somebody is working on something,” Quimby said. “It’s a coordination organization that will allow the business community to speak with one voice on issues. It will be a place where people with big ideas can go for help.”

Dave Cstintyan, president and CEO of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, said he was excited about the forum’s potential.

“I am very, very bullish about our future with this vehicle,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do at the right time.”

The exact structure of the leadership forum is still being fleshed out, Quimby said, but he expects it to be operating by April. That’s good timing, he said, with the upcoming change in city leadership and as the region hopefully begins to pull itself out of the economic downturn. The forum is likely to be largely volunteer, with perhaps an office coordinator to schedule meetings and an unpaid chairman to direct the group.

Quimby said he wanted to see the forum tackle long-range ideas several times a year, such as the plan begun last year to start a local branch of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Potential future plans, he said, would be things like developing a regional branding campaign.

“There are several different initiatives underway along those lines,” he said. “Probably it doesn’t serve our interests to have six different brands proposed.”

Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the EDC, said the forum was a long time coming, but that it’s a sorely needed tool to steer economic development planning in the region.

“It is certainly a step in the right direction,” he said. “This allows us to build a more aggressive and collaborative team going forward.”

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