The federal government shutdown was on the minds of many of the more than 2,000 business owners, managers and other executives who attended the 2013 Springs Business Expo on Thursday.
The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance and its predecessor organization, the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, have hosted the event for 29 years as a way for leaders of businesses, government agencies and nonprofits to make contacts, increase visibility and name recognition and generate leads for new business.
About 200 organizations paid at least $300 to rent space in the Freedom Financial Expo Center - the most since 2009.
"It is all about networking to help the business community build partnerships and relationships that are critical to building your business. It gives people a chance to meet companies that they would normally never hear about and gives small businesses a chance to get their face out there," said Shawn Dahlberg, the alliance's director of events and investor relations.
Several of the people in attendance took a few minutes from the business of the day to answer questions about the top issue on their minds. Not surprisingly, it was the shutdown.
Todd Dierdorff of Amnet Computer & Network Services
Why did you attend? I came to see the exhibits, to meet people and learn more about Colorado Springs businesses.
What is the top issue for business? We need to build enthusiasm for downtown and get behind turning it around. It will be a no man's land if we don't do something.
Is the shutdown affecting you? Not yet, but given the number of people in Colorado Springs that work for the federal government, there is a good chance we might be.
Janna Hoiberg, ActionCoach Business Coaching
Why did you attend? To learn what is going on with the local business community, understand what new businesses are out there and by learning and understanding more about their businesses, how I can help them and they can help me.
What is the top issue for business? My clients can't find qualified employees, and by that I mean people without DUIs (driving while intoxicated), who can pass a drug test and want to work.
Is the shutdown affecting you? (Not) yet, but it will impact my clients because a large percentage of my customers are military and when they have less disposable income, they buy fewer products and services.
Lauren Shawcross, director of sales, Holiday Inn Express-Airport
Why did you attend? I am in the hospitality industry and I want to meet new business people. I hope to make new business connections that will pay off in new business for the hotel.
What is the top issue for business? Sequestration (automatic federal budget cuts) first and now the federal shutdown. Both obviously are having an impact on our customers.
Is the shutdown affecting you? It is starting to effect our hotel, though the impact is minimal so far. Depending on how long it lasts, the impact will grow.
John Lee, director of community relations, Webster University
Why did you attend? I am here to network and for outreach to connect with potential students.
What is the top issue for business? The government shutdown is a big deal in a military town like Colorado Springs. When the military bases have to shut down, we have an economic issue here.
Is the shutdown affecting you? Tuition assistance has already been cut off; it is only a matter of time until we are affected.
Eleni Kistler, Air Force reservist who is job hunting
Why did you attend? I just finished my master's degree in music at University of Denver and am looking to make a career change from a highly technical background to something more in administration or management, so I am looking for a job.
What is the top issue for business? Colorado Springs is the number one city in the nation for the impact of the federal government shutdown. That makes it more difficult to find a job.
Is the shutdown affecting you? I just finished training with the Air Force Reserves and had orders for more training that was canceled.
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