A staff member for a Colorado congressman has been named the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance’s chief defense industry officer, a key position as the organization works to help preserve military-related jobs in the face of potential federal budget cuts.
Andy Merritt, who had served as district director for sixth congressional district Rep. Mike Coffman, will replace Brian Binn; Binn stepped down in August as military affairs president for the Business Alliance when it was still known as the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC.
The post was one of three announced Wednesday by Business Alliance President and CEO Joe Raso, who also named John Wilson as business development vice president and Brittany Harp as marketing and communications manager.
The posts are the latest personnel moves at the Business Alliance, which was created as a result of the February merger of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp.
The organization hired Raso — a former Iowa City, Iowa, economic development official — in May as president and CEO. Raso, in turn, has realigned his staff; he laid off four people in July, including senior vice president of member services Jenifer Furda and communications and marketing director Polly Welden. The combined Chamber and EDC rebranded itself as the Business Alliance in September.
In addition to Wednesday’s appointments, Raso said the alliance will hire a director of member investor fulfillment and volunteer engagement — a sort of concierge to work with its more than 1,500 members to answer questions and connect them with available resources.
In his role, Merritt will assume some of Binn’s duties, which included tracking state and federal legislation related to military affairs and the defense industry. He’ll also work with Raso and the organization’s board as they confront possible Department of Defense cuts scheduled to take effect in January.
But Merritt’s job also will be much more focused on business development as it relates to the defense and aerospace industries, Raso said.
Merritt has shown a clear understanding of area aerospace, military and space installations and has strong legislative ties and economic development expertise, Raso said. He’s helped secure funding for Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, Shriever Air Force Base and defense industry contractors, and helped protect missile defense funding that supports a variety of companies in Colorado, he said.
“It’s a critical team member that we need to have,” Raso said.
Merritt, a West Point graduate, served as a calvary officer while stationed at Fort Carson. He also was on the staffs of Colorado U.S. Sens. Wayne Allard and Hank Brown. Wilson will be responsible for expanding and executing the Business Alliance’s local industry program, which helps area employers maintain and expand their operations and potentially add jobs. Wilson also will support the recruitment of employers to town; he’ll report to David White, the Business Alliance’s chief business development officer.
Wilson replaces Jennifer Taylor, who left the organization in September. Wilson had been interim head of school for the Colorado Springs Charter Academy and worked as a business consultant for more than four years at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center.
Harp will develop and implement the alliance’s communications strategies and help build its brand, while working within the organization and in the community. She was a marketing coordinator for Berwick Electric Co. in Colorado Springs and worked as a marketing coordinator for State Farm Insurance in Iowa and the Springs.
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