Updated: July 13, 2014 at 11:29 am
The training, leadership and technology that comes with military service is the greatest asset the Pikes Peak region holds.
That's what Todd Baldwin, owner and operator of Red Leg Brewing Company in western Colorado Springs, believes.
An Iraq veteran and former fire support officer in the 101st Airborne Division, Baldwin's belief in the value of military skills spurred his partnership with professional mentor organizations Aspen Pointe and Rising Professionals to help turn veterans into entrepreneurs.
Baldwin acquired the location for his business in January 2013 and immediately began to implement the business plan he wrote two years earlier.
Months before that year's July 4 grand opening of a brewery that makes great beer and honors the traditions and customs of military service, Baldwin said he knew he had to do something more.
"I came home one night and asked my wife, 'What are we doing to help?" Baldwin recalled. "At the end of the day, it's all nice and grand to make great beer and hopefully be successful, but what have we done to impact people's lives?"
Baldwin formed Rising Veteran Professionals as a veteran entrepreneurial arm of the peer navigators of Aspen Pointe and the professional mentors of Rising Professionals. He said that as a community we need to do more to encourage young veterans like him to stay in Colorado Springs and grow small businesses into big businesses.
"We are not defense contractors looking for the best tax break and moving from city to city to find it," Baldwin said. "Businesses like mine, we are here, and we are never going to leave here.
"We have roots here. This is our home."
As a business owner celebrating one year in business that started with fewer than 60 gallons of beer a week and has grown to more than 1,200 gallons a week, Baldwin said it is all about the beer for him, but he acknowledges that his brewery has assumed the responsibility to help other young aspiring veteran entrepreneurs.
"It's been the biggest surprise for me as a brewery owner that this is an implied task that I never envisioned," Baldwin said. "It really is our responsibility now that we have to help."
Red Leg Brewing Company, named in honor of artillery soldiers of the Civil War who wore a red stripe on their pants, boasts the motto "Serving Those Who Serve."
All Red Leg beers have names that only those who have served might understand such as SGT Pils or Devil Dog Stout, which took the bronze medal at this year's World Beer Cup. Those not old enough to drink alcoholic beverages are not overlooked, as the brewery serves a root beer known as JROTC - a program found in many high schools across the nation.
The brewery celebrated one year in business on Independence Day with their Red, White and Brew Festival.