Monday became the dawn of a new era in Colorado Springs when the Colorado Economic Development Commission voted to rebate an estimated $120.5 million in taxes the state government would otherwise keep.
The commission approved tax relief to help establish four City for Champions proposals because members believe the projects will benefit Colorado more than anything state politicians might do with the money. In essence, the commission said people of the Springs are better suited than Denver politicians to leverage designated tax revenues. It's a shift of capital from state to local interests, which may benefit all of Colorado.
Because of the commission's trust and belief in the future of Colorado Springs, our community can embark upon conversations to determine the path for proposals designed to leverage assets and restore the region as a world class destination for tourists.
"In my lifetime, this is the most exciting, most uplifting day in Colorado Springs," said Mayor Steve Bach, a proponent of the tax rebates. "It says to the world that Colorado Springs is now poised to reach full potential as America's Olympic city, not only in terms of jobs we so desperately need, but in terms of the spirit of our community and all the catalytic effects this will have in so many ways."
Bach said he looks forward to initiating, hosting and/or participating in a series of community conversations in which residents will determine more specifically how to make the rebates an asset for all.
"Today's decision just makes available to us an instrument of financing, and now we need to come together as a community and have major conversations about how to proceed," Bach said.
A handful of opponents criticized City for Champions advocates for not hosting town meetings and otherwise marketing their preparation of the tax relief proposal. Applicants were trying to avoid inspiring other communities to apply for the same rebates, which are limited under the state's Regional Tourism Act. Rationale for the strategy was apparent Monday. Given that City for Champions had no competition, the commission was able to designate for our community the entire amount requested.
Proposals that sold the commission on rebates include an Olympic museum near a downtown multi-use sports arena, a U.S. Air Force Academy visitors center and a state-of-the-art sports medicine clinic on North Nevada. The sports medicine center, expected to serve top athletes from around the world, will work in conjunction with a new branch of the University of Colorado's medical school, at the Colorado Springs campus.
The Gazette's editorial board applauds the Economic Development Commission for believing in Colorado Springs, a city so often in the shadows of Denver.
By helping bring these projects to fruition, the commission found a way to bring more tourists to Colorado while giving visitors more reasons to traverse the Front Range and linger longer, to the economic benefit of all Colorado residents.
We hope City for Champions projects become so successful even today's opponents will welcome them. The only victory for anyone will be an end to economic stagnation and a start to growth that will create new jobs.
The world's greatest economists know that lowering tax burdens spurs private-sector investment and economic growth. That's why Colorado's Regional Tourism Act was established to facilitate development of new attractions.
On Monday, City for Champions became more than just an idea. It received a jump-start that could take this region to higher ground, so it can flourish in the near term and for generations to come.