In what apparently would be a first for the Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership, the organization plans to hire a full-time business development director who will act as an advocate for new and expanding downtown businesses.
Among the director's responsibilities: helping businesses understand permitting requirements and find a location for their operations, while acting as a primary contact on planning, zoning, regulatory, financing and other issues.
Such positions are common in other downtown organizations, Susan Edmondson, the Downtown Partnership's new president and CEO, said this week. But she said she's not aware that the partnership has had one in the past.
"It's really providing that extra level of service to help people navigate the permitting processes, site selection, everything that's needed to start a successful business and maintain a successful business downtown," she said.
The timing of the position is critical because the partnership - downtown's leading advocacy group - wants to feed off momentum that might be building for downtown, Edmondson said.
Springs Mayor Steve Bach and other civic leaders said last week they're pursuing state funding for a downtown, multi-use stadium and a U.S. Olympic museum. Other downtown supporters have said recently that the time is right for another attempt at major downtown upgrades.
"There's a window of opportunity here and we have to not just be reactive, but proactive at this time," Edmondson said. "The responsibilities placed on downtown are much greater now than they were a few years ago - in very good ways, such as the mayor really leading the charge on some downtown efforts, for example.
"But with the economy picking up," Edmondson said, "we're seeing businesses expanding and looking at some downtown locations. That's really picked up the last few years. So we really want to be ready for that."
The partnership's board of directors has signed off on the addition of the business development director, whom Edmondson would hire.
Among other qualifications, the partnership wants someone with at least three years' experience in real estate, urban planning or economic development. The deadline to apply is July 24, and Edmondson said she hopes to have someone hired by Labor Day.
The director's addition would increase the Downtown Partnership staff to five full-time employees and two part-timers. Its annual operating expenses are increasing to about $575,000 from $483,000, Edmondson said.
The Downtown Partnership is an umbrella group that works with a trio of organizations, which, in turn, contract with the partnership for services: The Downtown Development Authority and Greater Downtown Colorado Springs Business Improvement District - which are supported by property taxes on downtown businesses - and the non-profit Community Ventures, which is funded by donations and sponsorships.
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