August 1, 2013 Updated: August 1, 2013 at 6:45 pm
Mayor Steve Bach asked nearly 800 business and community leaders Thursday to support the city's application for a state grant to build four major local tourist attractions, use the city's airport and find a cause that will help the city and then take action.
"This is our time to think big and get big things done," Bach said during the 45-minute address at Broadmoor Hall, outlining a series of challenges the city faces and opportunities it has to improve the local economy. "Now is our time. Our opportunity to chart the course of this city for a hundred years in the spirit of (Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson) Palmer, (Philanthropist Winfield Scott) Stratton, (Broadmoor founder Spencer) Penrose and the community leaders who brought the Air Force Academy" to Colorado Springs.
Bach said the city has faced the challenge of two "epic" fires and subsequent flooding, continued high unemployment and automatic federal budget cuts, but has big economic development opportunities with a branch campus of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, economic opportunity zones in downtown, North Nevada Avenue and South Academy Boulevard and the city's airport. Bach made his speech at a luncheon hosted by the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.
Reaction to Bach's speech from the audience was positive:
- Mike Jorgensen, president and partner of Red Noland Cadillac and chairman of the business alliance board, said Bach "delivered a very unifying message. He made it clear what we can accomplish together. The plan for the City of Champions (the grant request) and the other elements he covered gave us a look forward at the tremendous opportunities that exist for our community. It's the responsibility of the business community to continue to work in partnership with our elected leadership to ensure that we are aligned to achieve our common goals. What we have learned and what was highlighted today is how we come together to help our neighbors. That is a foundation we can build on."
- City Council member Jill Gaebler, said the speech "was hopeful and I loved what he said to the community: use the airport, find something you love to do with the community and do it. It was an active community call to action."
She said she agreed with the mayor's request that community members learn more about the City for Champions proposal, noting that some of her constituents do not support the part of the proposal that calls for construction of a downtown sports stadium.
- Tom Naughton, president of U.S. Bank's Colorado Springs area operations, called Bach a "visionary. His address was very uplifting. He encapsulated the challenges the city faces, set high goals that will take hard work to accomplish. I think that citizens are getting that vision."
- Bill Hurt, broker and owner of ERA Shields Real Estate, said he is "encouraged and optimistic. I support his concept for downtown and believe that we need to do everything we can to revitalize downtown. I am excited to see how he will make that happen."
- Kevin O'Neil, CEO of The O'Neil Group Co., said Bach's speech "had passion. He has definite goals and we support his RTA (Regional Tourism Act) proposal, which is excellent. I liked his focus on downtown, community support and that he doesn't want any more urban sprawl.
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