Coalition's trip to D.C. hailed as highly productive

October 19, 2012

Colorado Springs area officials must work to protect local military installations from upcoming budget cuts but also be ready to take advantage of opportunities that may result, according to a local business executive who was among 38 business and civic leaders who met this month with officials in Washington, D.C.

“If we can get to flat (funding), we will be doing well,” said Scott Bryan, president of Bryan Construction and a member of the Regional Coalition for Strategic Federal Action, a consortium of business and trade groups, local businesses and government agencies. “Fort Carson seems to be in a good situation. There always is a threat of losing a brigade, but we have to realize it is a statewide asset and we have to act together. We need to be on the defensive side of these cherished assets, but we also need to be poised to receive new missions that may come here.”

Bryan hailed the coalition’s Oct. 1-3 visit to the nation’s capital as the most productive of the five he has attended, a comment echoed by many others at a media briefing Thursday hosted by the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance. He and others on the trip, which included three Colorado Springs City Council members and four of the five El Paso County commissioners, attended more than 50 meetings with congressional leaders and staff members, federal agency officials and others.

Many of the meetings were organized by staff from Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, the Washington, D.C., firm hired by the coalition nearly two years ago as the area’s lobbyist at a cost of $100,000 a year. The meetings centered on military and national security, transportation, wildfire mitigation, higher education and sports and wellness. The delegation on the trip was about half of the size of the group that participated last year, which Bryan said made the meetings more manageable and productive.

“When I first started coming on these trips they were all about waiting for our congressman to set up meetings for us. Now we are starting to build momentum. This was by far the most productive of these trips,” said Stephannie Finley, a coalition volunteer who is executive director for advocacy and partnerships at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Finley formerly headed the government affairs division for the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, which merged with the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. this year to become the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.

Other results from the trip:

• Met with officials from the U.S. Economic Development Administration about developing a proposal to win an i6 Challenge Grant, a multi-agency grant that encourages and rewards innovative, ground-breaking ideas that accelerate technology commercialization, new venture formation, job creation, and economic growth. The coalition is trying to put together a team of higher-education, military, workforce-development and business officials to determine what job skills are needed to pursue opportunities in the cyber-security industry.

• UCCS began an informal partnership with George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., which has built a research park like UCCS is planning and has been successful at building programs that encourage job growth and regional cooperation, said Venkat Reddy, dean of the UCCS College of Business.

• Met with officials from the Agriculture and Interior departments about recovery efforts from the Waldo Canyon fire, where the officials stressed that regional cooperation was needed to get the most federal help. The business alliance has set up a meeting Monday to boost that cooperation, especially developing plans to reduce flooding danger in the burn area and to cope with future disasters, said City Councilman Val Snider.

Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234 Twitter @wayneheilman
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