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Volunteers boost Colorado Springs business group's outreach, development efforts

July 23, 2013 Updated: July 23, 2013 at 4:55 pm

The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance has a secret weapon - one that costs nothing but is critical to the organization's mission of recruiting new businesses and growing existing ones. That would be the RBA's volunteers corps, made up of about 370 experienced business people who specialize in at least one of the organization's nine focus sectors and fan out to network, entice companies to locate here and help existing ones thrive.

"We have volunteers engaged across the organization, from our ambassadors, to those working on special events, to highly targeted volunteers who have expertise in areas important to growing an industry sector," said Joe Raso, the organization's president and CEO.

The RBA - created last year in a merger between the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. - carved out nine focus sectors: aerospace and defense, wellness, information technology, clean technology, higher education, local business, medical innovation and technology and nonprofits. Each has a volunteer group attached to it that works to bring businesses to the area through their extended networks.

""Everything is about building and growing the sector," said Dave White, the RBA's Chief Business Development Officer.

Those highly targeted volunteers are experts in their field, and they must be nominated and approve by the teams before they can work with the alliance.

The teams get together regularly to discuss business prospects and meet with business leaders to discuss the possibility of expanding or relocating to Colorado Springs.

"We typically hold a reception for the prospect, and the team members come," White said. "It helps the company understand that there are peers here that they can network with. It just is a great way to reach out to a company, to show them that they have community support."

When the RBA was trying to get fuseSport to relocate its international headquarters from Australia to Colorado Springs, the reception was one of the factors that won the company over, said White. The sports sector volunteer team, part of the wellness sector, held the reception to show fuseSport, a sports software company, that "they would have a place here where they could get connected where people could support them."

A few weeks ago, a volunteer group for the medical innovation and technology sector met to discuss business prospects. The alliance requested that the names of the volunteers not be disclosed, but the group included seven experts from a variety of health information technology companies in Colorado Springs and Denver.

"One of the reasons why they're so effective is that people feel like there's a level of trust and they feel like they can share confidential information without it leaking to the street," White said.

During the meeting, the team discussed its mission: to incubate companies that want a traditional technology transfer environment, regardless of the stage of the company; to align with other local organizations, like the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, which play a part in the "tech transfer" business; to create a collaborative and cohesive relationship with companies; and to "fast-track innovation ideas to the marketplace."

It's about "breaking it off into bite-sized pieces," said the team leader.

The team leader described the volunteer group as a unique entity comprised of many people who each add something of value to the table. They want to network with larger entities, he said, and promote innovation and excellence for Colorado.

"More companies in the area means more jobs which means more people here," said the team leader, who referred to their ultimate goal as "the return of 'Digital Mountain.'"

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