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Gazette exclusive: 'I think the Springs could be doing much, much better,' says Gov. Hickenlooper

By: John Schroyer, john.schroyer@gazette.com
May 21, 2014 Updated: May 21, 2014 at 7:26 am
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photo - Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper fielded questions during a visit to the Gazette Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper fielded questions during a visit to the Gazette Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

Colorado Springs and parts of rural Colorado might get a helping hand in the next year or so from a study proposed by Gov. John Hickenlooper that would look closely at why some areas of Colorado have done better economically than others in recent decades.

"I think the Springs could be doing much, much better," Hickenlooper said during a meeting with The Gazette editorial board on Tuesday. "I did convince the El Pomar Foundation, the Telluride Foundation and the Gates Family Foundation up in Denver to all chip in, and they're going to fund a study of the last, I think they're looking at 30 or 40 years, but my idea was, why is it that some town like Durango is doing so well, and Grand Junction isn't? Why has Fort Collins had such an incredibly explosive two decades, and the Springs hasn't had that same expansion?"

The study, titled the "Community Resiliency Assessment" according to Lori Bellingham of the El Pomar Foundation, is in its infancy. The head of the Gates Family Foundation said his board of directors hasn't made a formal commitment yet.

"Our board won't actually approve that commitment 'til June, so we've asked the governor's office for some more information about the scope and timeframe and budget," said Tom Gougeon, president of the Gates Family Foundation. "We have told them we'll participate. we're just sort of waiting for the rest of the details."

Bellingham said the El Pomar Foundation has committed $25,000 to the study, but there's no word on when it might begin, or how long it might last. Hickenlooper said he hopes it would take perhaps a year, or up to 18 months at most.

Telluride Foundation President and CEO Paul Major said, "The study hopefully will be focused on this broader question of do we see certain characteristics in communities that bounce back quicker than others?"

Major, like Gougeon, said details are still sketchy. He wasn't sure how much money the Telluride Foundation might contribute, or whether it would commit personnel to help perform the study.

Regardless of the details, southern Colorado could use any suggestions it can get, said Susan Edmondson, the president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs.

"I think some fresh eyes would be helpful, and I appreciate that the governor wants to elevate the entire state, not just pockets of the state. We're okay in Colorado Springs, but it's true, other cities are doing better in attracting jobs and new business, and maybe there is something we could learn," said Edmondson.

Hickenlooper said it's worth asking how and why some cities and towns are doing better than others.

"They're just going to look at the investment of, did they invest in schools, did they invest in parks, did they invest in health care, did they invest in business? What was the public sector doing over the last 30 years, and is there a connection between their economic successes? Because I think there might be," the governor said.

Ken Lund, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, couldn't be reached for comment.

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