El Paso County successes, 2014 challenges the focus of State of Region address

By: MATT STEINER Matt.steiner@gazette.com
December 11, 2013 Updated: December 12, 2013 at 7:50 am
photo - El Paso County Board of Commissioners chairman Dennis Hisey.
El Paso County Board of Commissioners chairman Dennis Hisey. 

El Paso County Board of Commissioners chairman Dennis Hisey highlighted economic growth over the last 12 months in the Pikes Peak region during the 2013 State of the Region address Wednesday.

He said El Paso County can consider itself fortunate to have prosperity, but stressed time and again during his speech at the Antlers Hilton in downtown Colorado Springs "we are not lucky."

Hisey said residents and businesses need to keep looking forward, citing "two devastating and deadly wildfires," the catastrophic floods that followed and government cuts and sequestration during 2013 that threatened a community dependent on the military.

"Now is not the best time to bet it all on the next roll of the dice," Hisey said.

The address highlighted ever-increasing construction totals just moments after showing a video that outlined the destruction of the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire and last June's Black Forest fire that killed two people, destroyed 488 homes and left more than 14,000 acres covered in blackened trees and ash-laden ground. Hisey said the regional building department reported that construction reached the $2 million mark in 2013, beating the previous year by about $300,000.

He also bragged on home sales that are up 18 percent and county sales and use taxes that made a 5 percent jump.

In the context of continued fortune, Hisey gave a pitch for the City for Champions initiative that consists of four tourism projects, a downtown multi-use stadium, a U.S. Olympic museum, an Air Force Academy visitors center and a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs sports medicine complex.

The City for Champions segment included a video that said the Pikes Peak region is "ready to race forward, but still embracing our traditions." Hisey followed that line of thought, saying, "our community was built on big, visionary ideas." He pointed to El Paso County staples like Colorado College, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, The Broadmoor and Fort Carson and said City for Champions could play a similar role and bring more money to the area for growth and rebuilding of devastated areas.

Colorado Springs City Council President Keith King was at Wednesday's address. King said after Hisey's speech that economic benefits from the City for Champions are not a definite and wouldn't come to fruition for at least two or three years. According to King, projects related to the fires and stormwater issues have to be addressed in the next year.

Hisey echoed King's immediacy of certain problems and said he is confident solutions will be found through teamwork. He ended his address by quoting Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings.

"You don't become a champion by playing not to lose," Hisey said.

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