SoCo Business Forum & Digest Vol.1 No.1

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SPACECOM HOST YOUR EVENT AT LISTEN TO ECONOMICS TECH SECTOR Vol. 1 No. 1 / September 12, 2023 $4.95 USA / P. 45 P. 20 P. 27 Space Command Update UCCS Economic Forum for September 2023 Innovaflex Foundry, formerly dpiX Business Communication in Southern Colorado is Back! Home of Access / Opportunity / Connectivity / Visibility / Insights The


Dirk R. Hobbs


John Lerohl


Lee Ann Harper


Ally Gallagher


Christopher Tombaugh


Geraldine Villanueva


Rachael Plath


Pam Bales & Jeanne Davant


Emilie Hagopian, Oliva Bond, Kay Rowe, Kim Daly, Keri Khan & Tiffany Underwood


Sterling McMannis & Angelina Pecoraro


Don Jones - Studio 9 Photography


Stu Duffy - Roan Media


Stephanie Lerohl


Jeff Mohrfeld (COS) & Josh Cafasso (Pueblo)


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Publisher’s Letter

Welcome to The Digest . Our work is dedicated to the business community and the emerging economic powerhouse region that is southeastern Colorado. We exist to create visibility about our region’s world-class business and economic development climate to everyone within it, as well as those who are looking at this region for their next great opportunity

How? By providing insights, access, and connectivity through a highly attractive, interactive, intelligent, and informed presentation that is representative of the great people and organizations that make up our business community.

Since the first settlers came to this region and began spreading the word about this majestic place and the healthy lifestyle, and endless possibilities, the world has been attracted to its natural assets and aesthetic. The open space, the pioneer spirit, the ability to be inspired to create and make the world a better place, and to truly be immersed in nature even while in the midst of our work.

Well over a million people call this region, home. Those same people have grown businesses and organizations that constitute a regional GDP that derives strength from industries such as aerospace, defense, space, cyber, high-tech, development, energy, professional services, non-profits, tourism, health and wellness, retail, manufacturing, higher education, the amateur sports industry, agriculture, hospitality, entertainment, and the list goes on. These and other industries and sectors put the great people of southern Colorado to work.

We Invent. We Innovate. We Build. We Lead. We Invest. We attract. We are southern Colorado, and we are open for business.

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The gravitas of this undertaking has never escaped the team at Colorado Media Group. Our job in part is to create an informed readership using an intelligent tool we call The Digest to:

• Edify those who lead our businesses and organizations,

• Showcase our incredible capabilities, and instill confidence in our region,

• Solve real-world challenges that face us today, and in the future,

• Open the door for collaboration, and create new opportunities,

• Encourage engagement and investment in this region, and to

• Foster an environment of innovation of products, solutions, and services that add value and meaning to our lives.

As we get underway, we want to know what you need and want to make this publication your business digest. You support The Digest’s publishing work and purpose by sending stories, showcasing your organization and offerings though advertising, and your involvement in the overall business conversation. In turn, our publication, and television (KKTV 11NEWS) and radio (Salem Media) partners will blast this message across the region – across the nation.

Let’s get to work! / September 12, 2023 / 4


13 Attention CEO’s Workplace culture is your biggest asset – just ask someone who’s worked in a toxic environment by KIM DALY

17 Colorado State Fairground Community Impact

Nearly a half-million people attend Colorado’s State Fair in Pueblo.

Nearly $15M in earnings by TIFFANY UNDERWOOD

20 On Inflation, the Worst is Behind Us

UCCS’s new Economic Forum Director, Bill Craighead, Ph.D. opens his tenure with an encouraging word about inflation.


27 InnovaFlex:

Here to Stay

Semiconductor manufacturer

InnovaFlex committed to keeping IP and jobs in COS by PAM BALES

35 Attracting

Visitors of All

Abilities to the Front Range

24M People visited the Pikes Peak Region in 2022. What we’re doing to maintain that and more… by JEANNE DAVANT

50 Expanded Venture Capital for Aerospace

Venture capital scene in So. CO heating up – Venture Capital Authority commits up to $17M

51 Online Network Connects Manufacturers, Suppliers, and Clients

Manufacturer’s Edge Creating a network between manufacturers and suppliers and customers

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Contents / September 12, 2023

We are happy to congratulate this year’s businesses comple�ng the Excellence In Customer Service (EICS) Award Applica�on and Evalua�on Process: Adam & Son Auto Repair and Service, Bob Penkhus Motor Company, Genesis MedSpa, McCloskey Motors, Inc., Stratus IQ, and WireNut Home Services.

Updates From Around the Region

Castle Rock

The Sturm Collaboration Campus brings together education, business and the community to create a unique resource for delivering a seamless education and workforce training. Opened in 2019, the Sturm Collaboration Campus is a partnership between Arapahoe Community College (ACC), Douglas County School District, and Colorado State University that creates a CSU degree pathway for high school and community college students – all in one location in Castle Rock, Colo., midway between Denver and Colorado Springs. Using resources from across the CSU System, Sturm Campus offers educational solutions for the modern learner, meeting students where they are geographically and connecting in the local community through experiential learning opportunities.


Pueblo’s population has been growing, but at a slower rate than in the past decade. Between 2020 and 2022, Pueblo County’s population increased by 613 people. The cost of living in Pueblo is 7% lower than the state average and 3% lower than the national average.

Fuel Kitchens will provide a place for local businesses to ship, make, and package food. Construction workers are currently building the kitchen space. It will serve as a 3-thousandsquare-foot full-scale commissary kitchen.

Colorado Springs

New business locating/remaining & expanding in Colorado Springs/El Paso County accounting for 2,350 net new jobs: Boecore, Zivaro, Intuitive, Meyer Burger, Caliola, Nooks, and Entegris


Representatives from the Town of Monument held a listening session Tuesday evening to weigh if there was interest for the residents of Gleneagle to have their community annexed into Monument. Result: no interest on the part of residents of Gleneagle.

Colorado Springs Big Employer Wins So Far in 2023

Meyer Burger: Meyer Burger, a Swiss solar manufacturer, is opening a solar cell manufacturing facility in Colorado Springs in 2024. The company will invest about $400 million over five years to transform a former Intel semiconductor plant into a solar cell manufacturing facility. The facility will create more than 350 jobs.

Boecore: Boecore is an aerospace and defense company that specializes in software development, systems engineering, and cybersecurity. They develop, operate, and maintain missile defense, space, and cyber systems. They are expanding in Colorado Springs and will create over 600 jobs.

Zivaro: An information technology company that specializes in serving government and national defense partners. Zivaro plans to create 304 new

jobs in Colorado Springs over the next eight years.

Nooks: Nooks is a defense industry startup that will open its third location in Colorado Springs. The company offers classified workspaces and networks for businesses and government partners. Nooks will create 35 high-paying jobs in Colorado Springs.

Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation (INTUITIVE®), an aerospace engineering and analysis firm, has selected Colorado Springs, Colorado for expansion. Colorado’s robust aerospace community continues to attract companies and exciting career opportunities, and we are excited to welcome INTUITIVE to Colorado Springs, bringing 71 good-paying jobs. INTUITIVE joins a thriving and innovative aerospace ecosystem in Colorado Springs, where U.S. Space

Command continues to carry out its important mission protecting national security in the space domain.

Caliola Engineering, LLC is a 100% woman-owned small business located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They are a communications technology firm that specializes in supporting the defense industry. Their team includes systems, security, and software engineers.

Entegris: a manufacturer, electronic parts supplier, and exporter. Broke ground on a $600 million manufacturing center of excellence in Colorado Springs on June 7, 2023. The facility will develop products critical to the manufacturing of semiconductors in the United States and around the world. Entegris expects to invest approximately $600 million in the construction of the facility over the next several years.

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Regional Professional Business Organization & Events

Organization Links

So. Colorado is fortunate to have amazing support from dedicated, informed, and highly active local chambers, EDCs and business organizations that focus on advancing marketplace trust among consumers.

Keep atop of the region’s business-to-business/networking meetings, events, educational offerings, member benefits, and more. Click your local organization’s icon and mark your calendars with the right events for your business. When you support your local chambers, EDCs, SBDCs, and the BBB –we make business stronger for everyone!

BBB of Southern Colorado

Pueblo Economic Development Corp.

Royal Gorge Chamber Alliance

Castle Rock Chamber

Colorado SBDC - Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center

Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC

Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber

Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Visitor Center

Colorado Springs Hispanic Chamber

Trinidad & Las Animas County Chamber of Commerce / September 12, 2023 / 8
The Colorado Springs Black Chamber The Greater Pueblo Chamber

Small Business: Veteran-Entrepreneurship FROM BADGE-HOLDERS TO BUSINESS OWNERS

Helping veterans transition from service to entrepreneurship is the mission of Colorado Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) at Mt. Carmel. The VBOC is a proud extension of the Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center. It’s not just another veterans program; it’s a lifeline for transitioning service members, veterans, and military families. The program is designed to guide veterans toward a path of selfsufficiency and self-employment. But more than that, it helps servicemen and -women fulfill lifelong dreams.

VBOC has joined hands with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to foster entrepreneurial development across Colorado’s Veteran communities. With the help of over 20 SBA organizations, they offer specialized business training, counseling, and resource partner referrals. From prebusiness planning workshops and entrepreneurial training to feasibility analyses and business mentorships, VBOC provides holistic support to veterans as they take their first transformative steps towards entrepreneurship.

But the support doesn’t stop at just the business; it reaches further to help the business owner. NaKia Palmer, the program’s director, says,

“Because Mt. Carmel is our host, we don’t just say, ‘Hey, how’s the business doing?’ We can say, ‘How is my veteran doing?’ We have the opportunity to say, ‘What else do you need?’”

As an extension of Mt. Carmel, VBOC has an arsenal of health, wellness, and transition resources in its back pocket. Family support, mental health resources, physical wellness treatments — Mt. Carmel does it all, and VBOC is there to connect veterans with all of the resources they need. Whether a returning family member, an active

service member or a future business owner, they find unwavering support at Mt. Carmel and VBOC.

“Entrepreneurship is a lot... sometimes, we have business owners come in, and they’re stressed. Stress is real! Stress is a killer. And not having healthy coping skills can be detrimental to human beings…we want to let them know, ‘Mt. Carmel is here. We’re all here to assist!’ And that just makes me happy,” Palmer says with a smile.

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Emilie Hagopian is a staff writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.
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Small Business

Across America, distrust among consumers is higher than ever, a trend that is changing the way organizations do business. Jonathan Liebert, executive director and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, says, “More than ever, trust has become local.”

Particularly post-pandemic, consumers are turning to friends, family, and neighbors to make sense of the local marketplace. But no longer is it good enough for a business to simply do what they say they are going to do. “Now, what we’re hearing from consumers is, ‘I want to find a business I can trust, that’s going do the job right, but I also want to find a business that I can trust that actually says that they’re doing what they do as it relates to social and environmental good.’”

Millennials — a generation defined as those born between 1981 and 1996 — are currently the largest population segment in America, and its biggest consumer. While older generations may hold more wealth, it’s millennials who spend the most and vote with every dollar they spend. Says Liebert, “Seventy-five percent of millennials believe that a business should do more than just make money. They should have a higher purpose. They should give to a cause.”


For Gen Z — those born between 1997 and 2012 — the desire is even greater. Ninety percent of them are seeking out purpose-driven businesses. Liebert, who interacts regularly with this generation while teaching at University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, says it’s simply in their DNA. “They may not know the language, they may not know the specific business strategy, but that’s just how they think and how they view the world. They are going to align their dollars with a company that gets it, with a company that does more than just big money.”

And that’s not all – building a community mission into a business strategy doesn’t only drive more sales, it also helps to attract and retain top talent. The same purpose-driven companies that younger generations are buying from are the ones they hope to work for one day, or are beginning to build themselves. “There’s a huge incubation period going on right now,” says Liebert, “a huge ideation phase of young entrepreneurs that are starting or getting ready to start businesses that have a social impact focus.”

Liebert says taking on a purpose-driven mission will be a key driver of business success, especially as market

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competition intensifies. The newest social entrepreneurs are building a mission-driven purpose into their business model from the ground up, versus those that have been in existence and are now trying to rebrand themselves to play catch up.

Just three years ago, businesses were forced to pivot in response to the pandemic, and while social impact businesses were already on the rise, many more saw an opportunity within the ensuing turmoil to focus on mission, purpose, and people, reaping benefits as a result. These were the companies that were giving back to their community, helping firstresponders, and providing hazard pay to their employees.

Now, with emergency government-subsidized programs behind them, every business needs to be just as nimble. “That social impact messaging was already there,” observes Liebert, “and now it’s going to another level.”

Making money alone can no longer be the North Star. They must ask themselves why their business exists, and then use the answer to guide their decision-making again and again.

Regardless of their current place in the business lifecycle, there is support; and it starts with the local community, says Liebert. Attending trainings and networking events, whether free or paid, plugs business leaders into the community while providing the knowledge and perspective to tackle new challenges. Use these opportunities to tell a story, advises Liebert, articulating why businesses want to give back and how they plan to do so.

Finally, says Liebert, it’s important to get on board with digital marketing. Times are changing rapidly, and ensuring digital savviness means understanding and embracing tools such as AI and e-commerce.

“The community, in terms of consumers, wants to buy from locally owned businesses. But they also want to buy from a business that has a good reputation. They want to buy from somebody that’s doing good things in the community.” / September 12, 2023 / 12
” What we know is that the people in this community want to help each other out.
— Jonathan Liebert
Kim Daly is a staff writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.

Strong Workforce


Leaders know that culture matters. But with so many problems to solve and goals to reach, it’s hard to make workplace culture a priority. In bestselling author Mark Miller’s recent book Culture Rules: The Leader’s Guide to Creating the Ultimate Competitive Advantage, he surveyed more than 6000 individuals from 10 countries. Although 67% of global leaders agreed that culture is their most powerful tool, workplace culture failed to show up in a top 10 list of priorities.

Unfortunately, this disconnect has far reaching consequences. Culture affects everything from reputation to hiring to employee retention. In a Glassdoor survey, 56% of employees said workplace culture was even more important than salary. Elevating your company culture doesn’t have to be daunting, according to Miller. His book outlines a simple strategic framework to create a thriving highperformance culture. Below are three rules to help you define the culture you want, integrate your message into the workplace, and find success by listening, learning, and adjusting.

Get Clear

Humans want to feel connected to something bigger than themselves. That’s why Miller’s first rule is called Aspire. Most leaders have already identified their organization’s aspirations—the difference here is communication. Miller advises leaders to translate their vision, mission, purpose, and core beliefs for employees.

When aspirations remain unsaid, confusion reigns instead of culture. Maintaining values and articulating your vision not only outlines boundaries and expectations, it also creates a sense of shared purpose.

Repeat Often

It’s not enough to announce your organization’s expectations. Instead, Miller says you have to Amplify them, which is the second rule in his strategic framework. Leaders can amplify their vision, mission, and core values in many ways, and Miller suggests using a variety of methods. The world is loud and distracting, and to build a better culture, employees need reminders.

One technique Miller recommends involves looking at the last 30 days of your calendar and finding activities you personally engaged in that match your aspiration.

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Then, the goal is to strategize how you can use these same activities in the future to amplify your aspiration. This process can be far reaching, affecting everything from hiring descriptions to onboarding of new employees to recognizing team members who embody the mission and core values of your organization.

Listen & Learn

Enhancing workplace culture is not a one and done proposition. The last rule Miller wants leaders to understand is Adapt. In other words, clarifying your vision and values is important, but how do they actually land with the people that work for you? Miller advises leaders to prioritize listening so that you understand if your aspiration is on target or if it needs an adjustment. Systems that help identify problems that affect workplace satisfaction are important ways leaders can monitor the health of the culture they’ve worked so hard to build. Listening sessions and surveys are great ways to take the pulse of your organization. HR morning has cataloged 45 sample questions to help employers build their own customized survey to measure workplace engagement and satisfaction.

The Bottom Line

Taking the time to reflect on the three rules of Miller’s framework— Aspire, Amplify, and Adapt—will help you develop and maintain a healthy workplace culture. The long-term benefits for organizations are huge when people are more connected to their idea or mission because that will make them more invested in it. It’s up to leaders to carve out space for the hopes and dreams of their team members, so they can create a culture that allows all members of their organization to thrive.

Terri Hayes is the President and CEO of The TriLakes Chamber of Commerce & EDC. It is a private non-profit organization that aims to support the growth and development of local businesses and our regional economy. We strive to create content that not only educates but also fosters a sense of connection and collaboration among our readers. Join us as we explore topics such as economic development, networking opportunities, upcoming events, and success stories from our vibrant community. Our resources provide insights, advice, and news that are relevant to business owners, entrepreneurs, and community members alike. / September 12, 2023 / 14
Inspirational IQ
You've got to be out in front of crowds, repeating yourself over and over again, never changing your message no matter how much it bores you.”
— Jack Welch
When I talk with Managers; I get the feeling their important. When I speak with Leaders; I get the feeling I’m important.
— Anon
The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.
— Proverbs 21:5

Workforce Development


The Pikes Peak Business and Education Alliance (PPBEA) wants businesses’ input on developing the workforce talent needed in their industry. The group is on a mission to create a sustainable talent development model that involves students, teachers and education staff, parents, and business representatives.

Formed five years ago, the PPBEA serves as the intermediary between El Paso County’s 17 public school districts and industry, PPBEA Director Bob Gemignani says. The potential for fragmentation is problematic when it comes to schools partnering with industry, he says, “because multiple school systems are reaching out to the same employers to do the same thing in different ways.”

“Our purpose is to accelerate and enhance student career development and employer talent attraction through organized and sequenced career-connected learning,” says Gemignani.

Business owners and representatives can help by attending one of the alliance’s regional career pathway advisory board sessions this fall, he says. These biannual meetings bring together schools and industry to talk about meaningful, outcomebased talent development practices. Everyone is welcome, but the PPBEA is inviting business representatives specifically interested in developing

talent pipelines and transferring industry knowledge to the next generation.

Advisory groups will meet over the next two months in the following areas:

• Arts, design, and multimedia

• Engineering and skilled trades in manufacturing

• Education

• Culinary and hospitality

• Computer science and cybersecurity

• Business administration and social impact

• EPCCA skilled trades and technical sciences

• Nursing and health sciences

Business leaders who attend these meetings help educators understand “what sorts of high wage-high demand jobs are out there for kids and how to help them develop their career aspirations,” Gemignani says. Businesses can also partner with the alliance by signing up to create work-based activities, he says.

Partnering with PPBEA exposes a business to students who may

want to explore careers within a particular industry. Businesses can help provide these students with a pathway to future employment through internships and other career-connected activities.

Businesses can also donate time and talent by sponsoring workbased learning opportunities for students in their classrooms, and can share their knowledge and experience by participating in the regional career pathway advisory meetings.

FOR MORE INFORMATION or to register for the advisory board sessions:


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Jeanne Davant is a senior writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.


The Colorado State Fairgrounds (fairgrounds) is a large part of the community. Year-round the fairgrounds host events that supports local business and provides hundreds of job opportunities. The fairgrounds are 102 acres of property that houses approximately 57 facilities used for various fair and non-fair events. Scott Stoller, General manager of the Colorado State Fair, said, “There are not many other places in the world where you can find what we have here.”

Every year, the Colorado State Fair Authority conducts surveys and analysis to see how fair and non-fair events have performed. These studies are conducted annually in hopes of keeping the fairgrounds at optimal performance. Crossroads Consulting Services LLC (Crossroads Consulting) completed the most recent economic and fiscal impact report for the year 2021. This report analyzed the direct spending and total output generated from fair and non-fair events. Additionally, they researched jobs, earnings and tax revenue.

The Colorado State Fair in an annual event that takes place on the fairgrounds from late August to early September. Some events held during the fair are live music, livestock shows, carnival rides, agricultural entertainment and food vendors. The fair lasts 11 days and had an estimated attendee count of 457,765 people. Of these attendees, approximately 18% of surveyed individuals were first-time visitors, whereas 40% have attended the fair for 20 years or more. According to the report, the 2021 fair estimated total generated earnings was $14.9 million at the county level. The total output for that year was $43.7 million. This spending level supported approximately 506 full and part- time jobs.

The fairgrounds are also used for community events during non- fair time, rentals are available for individual facility and full grounds events. In 2021, the fairgrounds were used for a variety of events including concerts, 4-H activities, community events and Covid-19 testing. The total number of events held during non- fair time is 291 events that took place over approximately 878 days. The most frequent event held is the 4-H events, which held 166 events that year. According to the report, the 2021 non- fair events estimated total generated earnings was $4.3 million. The total output for that year was $11.8 million. This spending level supported approximately 106 full and part- time jobs.

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Tiffany Underwood is a staff writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.


As a government agency, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center provides core business services at no cost to companies in El Paso and Teller counties. Some of our services include labor market data, candidate screening, educating businesses in skills-based hiring, and hosting job fairs and hiring events — to enable businesses to access and hire local talent. One specialized service directly benefits the bottom line of businesses and the individuals they hire — our Employee Development Funds program.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, our program begins with a competitive application process. Businesses are selected based on a scoring rubric, which includes more points for being a small business (fewer than 50 employees), being in an in-demand industry within the Pikes Peak region (such as manufacturing, hospitality/tourism, IT, healthcare, and professional services), and offering training that will bolster the success of

the company, prevent layoffs, and increase opportunities and wages for existing staff.

Additionally, companies get to choose which trainings they want to offer their staff, as well as select the training provider. Rather than following a prescribed format, they’re able to select up to five trainings that will specifically benefit their company’s needs.

Examples of various trainings that companies can offer their staff under this program include: S-212 Wildland Fire Chainsaw certification for Rocky Mountain Field Institute and Architecting on AWS and DF01: Mongo DB Developer for a local startup cyber/IT company. In addition, dozens of businesses have offered such trainings as AS9100:2016 Certified Internal Auditor, Building Information Modeling for Project Managers, Microsoft 365 Security with Enterprise Administration, and many others.

Every year, we offer this program twice; depending on our federal

funding each time, between $100,000 and $165,000 is distributed among approximately 10-15 companies.

These funds create an economic multiplier in our community, as these training dollars increase the competitiveness of businesses, allowing them to grow and hire more people, while also boosting the careers of individuals who work for them — that means additional revenue, wages, and sales tax dollars within our local economy. / September 12, 2023 / 18
Workforce Becca Tonn is the Communications Manager at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center.

Economic Development PEDCO: PUEBLO’S WORK HORSE

Through attracting new industry, Pueblo Economic Development Corp (PEDCO) has become the catalyst for economic growth in Pueblo and the southern Colorado region.

A nonprofit, membership organization and 501c6 with a team of five full-time employees, it has been in operation for 42 years. Here are some economic impact statistics in the Pueblo region from 2022 worthy of mention:

• Companies brought in that have remained in business provided 13% of the county GDP and 19% of the local GDP

• The total combined annual output of 50 companies was $7.2 billion

• The city of Pueblo procured over $5 million in collections and sales taxes, representing 7% of the city’s total

• Additionally, these companies paid $1.5 million in property taxes

President & CEO Jeff Shaw has been involved for 22 years. A generational pattern in that Shaw’s father helped organize PEDCO in its earliest form, in the early ‘80s. The organization was born out of the steel crisis of that time. The industry crash was devastating, requiring a solution to bring business back to Pueblo. Shaw explains that the steel

industry was one of the oldest in Colorado and a significant portion was located in Pueblo.

PEDCO attracts a variety of industries, however they currently concentrate on six areas of growth: outdoor recreation, aerospace and defense, construction manufacturing, food and beverage, hemp, and rail. There is an incentive fund for infrastructure as well. Shaw states that Pueblo is set up well for transportation, including heavy rail industrial parks.

In regards to water, Pueblo has three times the capacity of neighboring areas – a virtual oasis that can accommodate companies with large water needs. In addition, Pueblo has some of the oldest water rights in Colorado, with water so plentiful, that the excess is leased out.

Shaw says PEDCO can top the state’s bids by two or three times, thanks to membership fees collected. They can also build square footage, making them attractive for southern Colorado businesses – capital funds are for use within Pueblo exclusively. For almost 35 years, the voters of Pueblo have opted to tax themselves an additional .5% to attract business to the city, which also contributes to winning the bids. Up for renewal

every four or five years, the measure is usually voted in 60-40.

Shaw states, “We spend time and effort inside the community talking about workforce. Currently we have a project in Pueblo destroying mustard agent. Once done, the workers are free to go elsewhere. The workforce is highly trained as well as background checked. Retooling is a specialty of Pueblo.” (retooling or reskilling is training employees on an entirely new set of skills to prepare them to take on different roles).

PEDCO has made a significant economical impact on local businesses and the city. By bringing in more services, indirect jobs have been created. Along with that, school districts, libraries, and other public services have been positively affected. Shaw feels it is a tool that gives the region a competitive economic development edge, noting that a close relationship with Colorado Springs is always maintained.

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CSU-PUEBLO will be the first solar powered University in the United States. They recently signed a power purchase agreement to bring a $17 million solar panel power project to the University as the main generating source for the academic campus. Kay Rowe is a staff writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.


Despite remarkable gains in employment over the past several years, consumers have felt negatively about the economy due to inflation. That may be starting to change.

Employment dropped precipitously during the pandemic, but it recovered much more rapidly than it did following previous recessions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, non farm payrolls were back to pre-pandemic levels in June 2022, 16 months after their peak in February 2020. After the 2008-09 recession, it took over six years for employment to match its previous peak.

Local employment has been even stronger – this June, payrolls in the Colorado Springs area are 5.9% above pre-pandemic levels, compared with a 2.5% gain for the US as a whole.

Despite the strong employment recovery, negativity has reigned – the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index bottomed out at 50 in June 2022, a steep drop from 101 in February 2020.

It’s easy to understand why –American consumers have felt the sting of high inflation for the first time since the early 1980s. The Fed is using its interest rate tools to get inflation back down, but high

interest rates are another source of hardship.

The good news is that inflation is coming back down.

During the pandemic recovery, the rate of increase for wages and prices both accelerated, but, for most of 2021 and 2022, price increases outpaced wage growth, which meant that the purchasing power of paychecks was falling.

Now, both inflation and wage growth are coming down, but the decline in inflation has been sharper than the deceleration in wages. Since this spring, wages have been growing faster than prices, which means that workers are finally seeing gains in purchasing power. So, it’s not surprising that

Americans are staring to feel a little better about the economy –consumer sentiment has bounced back from its lows last summer, hitting 71.6 in July 2023.

While the volatility of energy and food prices means there could be some bumps in the road, the overall downward trend in inflation looks set to continue. Before too long, the feeling of “sticker shock” we all seemed to experience whenever we went shopping will just be a bad memory. / September 12, 2023 / 20
Economic Forum
Dr. Bill Craighead is the Director of UCCS Economic Forum College of Business.
Dirk R. Hobbs
Entreprenuer, Executive Publisher Colorado Media Group, Inc. Listen Live on Fridays at 3:00 p.m. MST Stream in your car, on your computer, or headphones via your favorite platform COVERING ALL OF SOUTHERN COLORADO

Money: Tax & Finance


Apologies upfront since this is not the sexiest of tax topics, but for those parents who either over-funded a 529 college savings account or the funds were never needed, there is a provision in the SECURE 2.0 Act allowing beneficiaries to perform a 529 to Roth IRA conversion starting in 2024. There are some rules:

• The destination Roth IRA can only be the beneficiary’s (not account holder) of the 529 plan. So, the student / child will typically own the Roth IRA, not Mom and Dad. But this does allow some new flexibility as the parents help their children transition to adulthood. Yay!

• The 529 plan must be open for 15 years. Yikes, that is a back-breaker for sure.

• None of the contributions made in the previous 5 years can be converted to a Roth IRA. It is not that these funds are ineligible forever, you just need to wait

• You can only convert the Roth IRA limit which is currently $6,500 per year for the 2023 tax year. Yes, this might increase a bit in 2024 as the Treasury and everyone takes inventory of recent inflation.

• The lifetime maximum that you can transfer is $35,000. So, it’ll take you 6 years to convert the max.

There are some matters to be resolved by the IRS. What if you change beneficiaries? And does the $35,000 count for all plans under one account holder (the parents usually) or per beneficiary (the child). Another issue that is unclear is the ability to withdraw the funds from the Roth IRA. Currently, you can always take out your Roth contributions without penalty; put $6,500 in on Monday take out $6,500 on Tuesday for whatever reason. Will this $35,000 which likely include earnings in the 529 plan now be considered 100% contributions, and therefore you could transfer $35,000 and take it all out for your child to purchase a house? Perhaps.

Keep in mind that the IRS allows you to withdraw 529 funds without penalty should your student receive a scholarship. Note that there might still be a tax consequence from the earnings, but you escape the


As a reminder, 529 plan funds are used for education expenses which include tuition, fees, textbooks, supplies and equipment required for enrollment, special needs services and, in some cases, room and board costs. 529’s received two recent makeovers… the first being able to use up to $10,000 per year for K-12 tuition which is huge and the second being the 529 to Roth IRA conversion (a word of caution on the K-12 benefit… some states do not conform to this federal rule and might impose a tax and penalty).

Here are some things to consider when using a 529 plan:

Investment choices can be lousy, and rates of return can be extremely muted as compared to similar risk investments. A taxable brokerage account might still outperform a 529 plan even with the tax implications. Consider the math… a 7% rate of return tax effected at 40% (including state) is still a 4.2% rate of return. As of this writing, CollegeInvest (Colorado’s plan) had a 4.2% rate of return over 5 years for their moderate portfolio. According to SoFi, the S&P 500 returned 11.33% during the same time. Sure, you have a tiny state income tax deduction but these are things to ponder.

Not all the expenses you think are covered are qualified education expenses. Room and board is a huge part of the college expense but there are rules, and if you mess it up, you’ll trigger penalties and taxes.

There is not a federal tax deduction. Many states, however, allow for a tax deduction for the 529 plan contributions but there are limits here too- usually you must be a resident of the state program that you use, and the deduction is usually limited. So, if you relocate to another state, you might need to open a new 529 plan to take advantage of the state tax deduction.

Jason Watson, CPA, is a Partner for WCG, Inc. a progressive boutique tax and accounting firm located in northern Colorado Springs. You may contact him at 719-428-3261 or / September 12, 2023 / 22

Money: Tax & Finance


The debate over the U.S. dollar’s reign as the world’s reserve currency continues to make headlines. Recent developments, especially the U.S.’s comprehensive sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, have catalyzed the de-dollarization trend. This movement seeks to decrease the U.S. dollar’s role in international trade. However, despite these shifts, the U.S. dollar’s formidable presence is hard to contest. Here’s why the concerns surrounding de-dollarization might be overstated.

Why the U.S. Dollar Reigns Supreme

Store of Value: A crucial function of any currency is its role as a store of value. In 2022, the dollar made up 58% of global foreign reserves, surpassing the euro (21%) and the yuan (3%). The U.S. sanctions against Russia post-Ukraine invasion haven’t caused a significant shift in these reserves (Source: IMF, COFER).

Medium of Exchange: As of recent data, the dollar is the primary medium for trade, with 96% of trade in the Americas, 74% in the AsiaPacific, and 79% elsewhere using it. Europe remains an exception, favoring the euro at 66% (Source: IMF Direction of Trade). The U.S.

dollar also prevails in international banking with 60% of foreign currency claims being dollardenominated (Source: BIS locational banking statistics).

Unit of Measure: The U.S. dollar is the principal currency for foreign currency debt, where the percentage of foreign currency debt denominated in U.S. dollars has remained around 70% since 2010 in comparison to the euro’s share at 21% (Source: Refinitiv). And notably, the lion’s share of global oil trade is denominated in U.S. dollars, also strengthening its demand.

Reliability & Stability: Stability

is a cornerstone of any reserve currency. The dollar’s robustness stems from the U.S.’s commitment

to property rights, rule of law, and a strong economic foundation. Events like the 2008-2009 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the Federal Reserve’s proactive approach by offering swap lines to foreign countries, solidifying its reputation as a stabilizing force in global finance (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York).

Possible Alternatives: A Closer Look

The U.S. dollar as a share of global central bank reserves has dropped from 72% in 2002 to 58% in 2022 (Source: Goldman Sachs Asset Management). Nonetheless, this trend does not come at the

23 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest

cost of a sudden rise in dominance by another global currency backed by ally or enemy state. To illustrate this, it makes sense to ask, “What could replace the dollar?”

The Euro: The euro’s 20+ year track record offers some potential. However, it faces internal challenges due to EU member state disagreements. Furthermore, past financial crises have diminished its global prominence. Nevertheless, increased European integration could boost its global role.

The Yuan: China poses a modest challenge to the U.S. dollar due to its expanding global ties and as the world’s largest exporter. Despite its size, China’s bond market is approximately $20 trillion where the U.S. bond market is approximately $51 trillion (Source: GSAM). More importantly, China’s population is in decline, Chinese markets are less open and transparent, their housing market faces structural and significant challenges, and youth unemployment exceeds 21% (source: CNBC). Finally, trust and confidence in Chinese government and institutions is relatively low, making the Chinese yuan relatively unattractive for international investors.

The BRIC?: Led by the U.S., the world’s crushing sanctions against Russia, albeit necessary, had the

knock-on effect of sending message to adversaries that they must immediately become less reliant on the dollar. Russia, China, Brazil and Malaysia, and India among others, are seeking to set up trade channels using currencies other than the dollar. While this would reduce the dollar position among those countries, it is a stretch to argue that this will facilitate adoption of those currencies or a new “BRIC” currency.

Digital Assets (aka “Crypto”): A shifting payments landscape due to the rapid growth of digital currencies, could reduce reliance on the U.S. dollar. A Bank of International Settlements survey found that 93% of the world’s central banks are working on a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). But the digital asset ecosystem is still young and faces an uphill regulatory environment. That said, it is also possible that technological progress may solidify the dominant role of the dollar where 99% of stablecoin market capitalization is linked to the U.S. dollar (source:

Final thoughts

Despite shifts in the global economic landscape, the U.S. dollar’s stronghold seems secure. Research by Bertaut, von Beschwitz, and Curcuru (2023) reveals that

the dollar’s international usage has remained stable over two decades, overshadowing its nearest competitor, the euro. While international usage of the Chinese yuan has increased over the past 20 years, it has only reached an index level of about 3 versus the dollar at 70.

A modest weakening dollar should not be feared. Rather, there are benefits. For the dollar to maintain its reserve status, the U.S. must maintain persistent trade deficits, putting strain on the economy. A softening of the dollar increases the competitiveness of U.S. exports and fosters tourism.

Despite persistent fears of the dollar losing its hegemony circulate, they are largely overblown. It remains unlikely that any currency will dethrone the dollar in the foreseeable future. Given its historical track record, robust economic infrastructure, and the intricate web of global financial systems intertwined with it, the U.S. dollar is poised to remain the world’s preeminent reserve currency. / September 12, 2023 / 24

Sponsored Content


Our Colorado landscapes are as diverse as seashells along a coastline. Here we skip the shells and surround ourselves with landscapes of mountains, hills, plains, rugged valleys, lakes, rivers, sand, and soil.

The word “landscape” is borrowed from artists. Landschap is Dutch for “paintings of the countryside”. I think if the Dutch were to paint autumnal Colorado, their palette of oils might be too heavy to hold!

Whites and browns for the sleek mountain tops, golden oranges for the aspens, purple wildflowers, and grayish browns for the clouds of harvest field-dust. Autumn means crop harvest or calf weaning for the 34,000 farms and ranches in Colorado, working over 31 million acres. Colorado farmers and ranchers fill tables across the world exporting nearly $2 billion of resources, adding $40 billion annually to the Colorado economy. (That’s billion with a “b” as in “boatload” or “bountiful bushels and bovine”.)


People often think of waving fields of grain when you mention “harvest” or maybe even pumpkins…or pumpkin spice. But 66% of our state’s annual agricultural cash receipts are in livestock, not crops. There are 2.7 million head of cattle in Colorado. The tenth largest in the nation.

������n Ann�a��� Farms and Ranches


To get our arms around that huge number let’s focus in on one southeastern Colorado county--Otero County. Otero County is home to six towns, Otero College, world famous Rocky Ford melons (grown there since 1887), First National Bank Colorado-La Junta, Rocky Ford, and Fowler, and lots of farms and ranches--family farms and ranches.

In fact, 94% of all Otero County farms are family farms.

The 2017 Census of Agriculture reported 18,200 folks living in Otero County along with 75,253 head of cattle. Meaning cattle outnumber people 4 to 1. Out of 64 Colorado counties, Otero County is the 8th most profitable county in the state for livestock, poultry, and products. First National Bank Colorado knows the folks that make that happen.


Bryan Simmons, Sr. Vice President, and Chief Credit Officer, for First National Bank Colorado-Las Animas, knows livestock operations firsthand--a work-gloved-hand. Simmons grew up on 2,500-acre ranch in Otero County where he recalls his dad always saying,

“Where are your gloves?”

because there was always work to be done.

Simmons’ wife, Janet, grew up on a ranch just south of him where the Jackson family homesteaded in the early 1900’s. Janet and Bryan’s children are fifth generation customers with First National Bank Colorado-Las Animas and between her folks, his folks, and their current ranch they have about 800 head of cattle on 65,000 acres.

Autumn for the Simmons means weaning and marketing calves. Some years it’s dry and dirty work, which isn’t the best for weaning, while other years it’s a muddy mess in the rugged canyons in the south country.

So, Bryan is quick to agree that his dad was right about those gloves!

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Photo Credit: WIL WOLLERT


Just to the east of First National Bank Colorado-Las Animas, on the border of Bent and Prowers Counties, is Tell and Wil Wollert’s family farm. Tell and Wil are the sons of Kelley and Sheila Wollert and customers of the bank. Kelley is a third-generation farmer making Tell and Wil the fourth generation in this line of Wollerts farming some of the same ground their grandfather and great-uncle farmed.

The Wollert family counts themselves lucky to call the Arkansas Valley home and take great pride as stewards of the land. “As farmers we understand that the dirt beneath our feet and the water we are privileged to use is our way of taking care of our families and this beautiful earth God allows us to be on,” shares Wil Wollert.

Their farm is irrigated farm land, traditional flood irrigation from ditches and gated pipe with water from the Fort Lyon Canal and Lower Arkansas Water Management.

The Wollerts use some of the newest genetics in alfalfa seed along with legacy seed from their grandfather. They also grow corn, wheat, oats, milo, and Sudangrass. Their percentage of crops-to-acres is higher than 100%. With technology and efficient water practices they double crop acres by getting a crop off early and planting another on the same acres.

Having a great relationship with a bank that understands agriculture might be the most crucial relationship to have in this day and age. Farming is extremely capital intense and prices are often controlled by weather and outside markets. Jaxon has been an amazing loan officer and friend to us,” says Wil Wollert.

The bank is quick to point out they are honored to work with great folks and their roots are deep in Colorado soil. They’re proud to be an ag lender in colorful Colorado.

So why is Colorado so critical (and colorful) for America’s harvest?

Some say it’s the headwaters--fresh and pure. Others point to the altitude with brighter ultraviolet (UV) light intensity for growth and ripening. Some applaud the sunshine or the wide-range temperature-warm days, cool nights. And even the cold winters which mean fewer pests.

Ask First National Bank Colorado and they’ll tell you,


the people.” / September 12, 2023 / 26
No landscape is complete without them.
Photo Credit: WIL WOLLERT

Technology: Companies to Watch


Alittle under 18 months ago, Lindsay Pack took the helm of dpiX – now known as InnovaFlex. Pack knew right out of the gate that a major rebranding was the most pressing need of this successful, unique, 20-year-old semiconductor design and manufacturing firm in Colorado Springs.

“Day one, I knew we needed to amplify what we do in this industry, and we are the only company in the United States that creates semiconductors the way we do. That’s quite a statement to be able to make,” explains Pack. “Our major competitors are in China, not the U.S. This puts us in a unique spot to be able to collaborate with other industry partners, instead of competing.”

With more than 140 “teammates” at InnovaFlex, it was important to Pack to hear what all staff had to say about the company. “We had great people and great products, but there was very little vision, mission, or core values,” explains Pack. “I have a very different approach to leadership than my predecessor. We started with the culture of the company and took a grassroots approach, talking with every single member of our team to find out what worked well, what didn’t, and what they were excited about for the future.”

Two major themes emerged –product innovation and flexibility

– both internally and externally. While strategy and direction still come from the top, the ideas that were generated from the InnovaFlex teammates were instrumental in the shift in focus, according to Pack.

“I know it seems very literal, but it truly tells our story,” she says. “It’s not just the products we produce, it’s who we are for teammates, our customers, and our partners.”

What InnovaFlex Produces

Colorado Springs was once a mecca in the U.S. for semiconductor manufacturing. “The thought was that the U.S. could produce offshore and still keep our designs and creativity in this country,” notes Pack. “That’s not what happened. It wiped out the sector economy in the U.S., not just Colorado Springs. With the CHIPS Act and other initiatives now being put in place, we’re starting to bring that manufacturing

back to our country, and especially to Colorado Springs.”

InnovaFlex is unique because of the fabrication they use to produce semiconductors.

“Our company works mainly in the medical and DOD sectors, but we’re expanding and are looking to move into different business areas,” says Pack. “We can create semiconductors on a two-by-threefoot piece of glass, the thickness of a credit card or on a cellophanetype of material that is paper thin. These can be used in a variety of applications from a very durable and portable in-field bomb detection to standard medical x-rays.

“We are just beginning to scratch the surface of potential applications of this technology. We have a lot of research underway with multiple partners across the globe,” Pack explains. “We are hopeful that with the CHIPS Act and focus on the importance of this technology, we

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can engage in more partnerships and research that will keep the future of this technology in the U.S.”

One of the biggest challenges InnovaFlex and the entire changing manufacturing industry faces is a shifting workforce. Pack is working with other industry leaders, and governors, across Colorado, Utah, and Arizona to address the need for a different kind of worker for the future.

“I just returned from a summit in Denver,” Pack notes, “discussing how to train and recruit these new workers in our increasingly automated production world without needing a four-year college degree. InnovaFlex and other partners have similar needs – certified employees to oversee the massive machinery we all use, but who can also maintain and troubleshoot. What many people don’t understand is that these are well paid.”

The workforce is not just a challenge for her company, it’s also a personal passion. As a female CEO

with a biochemical engineering degree, Pack believes society is making progress getting more women into STEM fields, but it’s moving too slowly. She also laments the lack of women in leadership positions within the manufacturing industry.

“Often, I’m the only woman in the room at meetings, and I’ve just kind of gotten used to it,” notes Pack. “I believe the key to changing that is just starting to happen, introducing students to STEM applications in elementary school. From there, we need to continue to push in junior high, high school, and college until it just becomes a non-issue.”

InnovaFlex’s Future

“We’re here to stay,” exclaims Pack. “We have the capacity to grow easily in our Southeast location.” The company sits on 40 acres and is presently using only 20 acres of that space. “While we have the physical capacity to expand, the workforce component is our

challenge right now.”

InnovaFlex works with Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center, the electrical engineering department at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS,) and is looking at other feeder programs including Golden’s School of Mines. Additionally, InnovaFlex wants to support K-12 schools to enable vocational training and certificate programs for students resulting in employment for future high-paying technician roles.

“We’ve had great success with our educational partners so far and we’re looking for more opportunities to partner with organizations who can help us create jobs in our community that benefit all of us,” she ends. / September 12, 2023 / 28
” “
Lindsay Pack, CEO
Pam Bales is a senior writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.
6760 C orporate Drive, COS, CO 80919 (C)719.238.0330 (O)719.536.4444 Home Buyers & Sellers | Investment Properties 1031 Exchanges | Military Relocation Corporate & Executive Relocation | First Time Homebuyers Luxury & 2nd Homes | New Construction Land Purchases & Sales As Seen on American Dream TV & The Negotiators


Realtor® CNE & MRP

One of Colorado Springs’ most sought-after professional residential Realtors, Marquesa has helped hundreds of clients achieve their real estate goals. Recognized in the top 1.5% of Realtors in the area with over $23M in closed transactions in 2022, she has earned the respect of clients and colleagues alike.

As a 24 year resident of COS, she believes this is the best place to live, work, and play in the country.

She is also passionate about supporting her community through volunteer work and advocacy, small business growth and development, and spending time with her family.

4th Straight Year

Technology: Companies to Watch


Tekumo” means “tech cloud” in Japanese – fitting since the company provides automated technology management with a platform that connects customers to a technician network. According to CEO Strings Kozisek, the current state of the sector is 20 years outdated, putting Tekumo in a class of its own.

Complementary partners include technicians, market places, unions, and staffing companies to install and maintain technology systems (including smart connected devices). Tekumo’s services enable businesses to operate more efficiently and at a much lower cost. Important, since the sector faces challenges like the lack of technicians and out-of-date technology.

Tekumo is both a leader and a

visionary – purposeful and planned out. Kozisek states that key to their success is hiring great people with good vision who understand systems in professional services and other industries. As for executing their vision, they consider their process superior, as is the operating cost savings to customers. The barrier is getting potential customers who are willing to look outside the box.

Their ideal customers are large managed service providers (MSPs), healthcare, big box retail, hospitality, and property management companies. Their customers’ success is in being able to do more, faster – at a lower cost and with less personnel. Since its inception in January 2020, Tekumo has made a significant impact in the industry and maintained a satisfied

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customer base, new and old.

Tekumo’s goal is to become the engine that drives the industry of professional services and smart devices. They are looking for people with talent, who have a vision and are willing to exert the energy necessary to achieve it. Leadership feels Colorado Springs is an ideal location – a great community with cultural offerings that is also technology based, with individuals who have work experience outside the U.S.

Plans for the future include continuing to develop their software vision, widening their base with education, and maintaining their company culture of treating each other like family.

31 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest
Kay Rowe is a staff writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.

Economic Development: Aerospace & Defense


Colorado is home to the largest private aerospace economy per capita in the U.S., with more than 240,000 workers in the state’s aerospace industry. In Colorado Springs, more than 250 companies provide advanced technologies in national defense, global positioning systems, cybersecurity, and satellite communications.

Founded by Kathy Boe, Boecore is an aerospace and defense engineering company that specializes in software solutions, systems engineering, and cybersecurity. The firm has expansion plans for 620 good-paying jobs — including software and systems engineers. The decision is another strong step forward for the region’s robust and expanding aerospace industry.

“As the epicenter of national security space, we are excited that Boecore is expanding here in Colorado, taking root in our collaborative aerospace and defense ecosystem which brings together private companies, institutes of higher education, and military installations to meet workforce and defense needs locally and nationally. Boecore’s specialty in cybersecurity and mission operations will continue to be an important part of Colorado’s commitment to all things air, space, and security,” said Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera, co-chair of the Colorado Space Coalition. With the strength of the space community across the entire state of Colorado and the very concentrated space community in Colorado Springs, Boecore plans to build a large sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF), an ultra-secure building where officials and government contractors take extraordinary precautions to review highly classified information.

“Boecore shares Colorado’s spirit of innovation and our commitment to advancing new technologies that benefit national security. We’re pleased they are expanding in the state’s growing aerospace and defense industry and the Colorado Springs community,” said OEDIT Executive Director Eve Lieberman.

Recognizing that Boecore will create new highwage jobs and support Colorado’s growing aerospace industry, the Colorado Economic Development Commission approved up to $7,499,388 in performancebased Job Growth Incentive Tax Credits for the company over an eight-year period. These incentives are contingent upon meeting net new job creation and salary requirements.

The City of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC are also putting together a projected $671,626 local incentive package, pending final approval. This package will include the Colorado Springs Deal Closing Fund, a job creation grant, as well as a city economic development agreement.

Johnna Reeder Kleymeyer, president/CEO for the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, says the city is “positioned as a strategic market for aerospace and defense investment, fueled by our diversified, resilient, and strong economy that inspires investor confidence and catalyzes business expansions by top defense and aerospace companies to the Pikes Peak region.”

Boecore President Tom Dickson says, “We’ve decided that Colorado Springs will be the continued location of our headquarters and the primary focus of our growth and investments. These incentives will help fund new infrastructure, office space, and hiring focused in Colorado and we can’t wait to get started.” / September 12, 2023 / 32

Economic Development: Amateur Sports Industry

– with an overall economic impact greater than $100 million annually.

The establishment of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) in Colorado Springs during the 1970s was the significant driving force behind the original formation of the organization. With the headquarters and training facility nestled in the city, Colorado Springs enjoys a privileged position as a breeding ground for Olympic athletes and events. The collaboration between CSSC and the USOPC has fostered an environment that nurtures Olympic hopefuls and attracts numerous Olympic-related events and National Governing Bodies (NGBs) to the region. Annually, CSSC is host to an average of 20 Olympicrelated events and activities, substantially bolstering sports tourism in the local economy.


Often regarded as “Olympic City USA,” Colorado Springs has carved a unique niche for itself in the realm of sports, due to the relentless efforts of the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation (CSSC). The organization has been instrumental in shaping the city’s economy by promoting events, harnessing the potential of sports tourism, and fostering community sports programming

CSSC’s unique signature and partnership events, coupled with key national and international sporting organizations, have demonstrated an ability to attract top-tier sporting events to Colorado Springs. For example, CSSC played a critical role in bringing the recent World Jump Rope Championships held at Robson Arena in July 2023 which drew 3,000 participants from 25 countries over the 10-day event. Events that draw spectators and athletes from far and wide bring with them a world-class reputation that cements Colorado Springs as a world-class sports destination while also significantly impacting sports tourism and revenue in the local economy. As highlighted in the 2023 State of the City by Mayor John Suthers, the sports economy in Colorado Springs continues to grow, reaching a half billion dollars per year.

Additionally, these events play a crucial role in reducing leakage – the outflow of money from the local economy due to residents seeking sports and other entertainment elsewhere. This retention of spending power has a compounding effect on Colorado Springs’ economic stability, creating a thriving and sustainable business ecosystem. Furthermore, this offering of diverse and exciting entertainment options retains locals in the city and provides a quality-of-life benefit equally valuable to the local economy. For example, the Colorado Springs Labor Day Lift-Off, a partner event of CSSC, reports 21% of local attendees would leave the Pikes Peak region for at least part of the holiday weekend were it not for the annual event, reducing leakage from the region by over $3 million.

33 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest

By Colorado Springs Sports Corporation

CSSCs influence isn’t confined solely to large-scale sporting extravaganzas. The organization extends its reach through comprehensive community sports programming that focuses on fostering youth talent and improving the quality of life for underprivileged communities. By providing access to sports scholarships, and actively coordinating youth sports and programming such as the Rocky Mountain State Games and Y.E.S. Program in conjunction with United Way’s Family Success Center, CSSC empowers young athletes and enables them to pursue their dreams despite financial constraints. This investment in local youth nurtures athletic potential and also instills invaluable life skills like teamwork, discipline, and perseverance.

In addition to the positive impact on individual lives, CSSC’s community initiatives contribute significantly to the local economy. When underprivileged communities are given access to sports and recreation, their residents are more likely to be productive citizens who

contribute to the workforce and the local economy. Moreover, improved quality of life encourages people to dine out and engage in recreational activities, which in turn fuels the restaurant and hospitality sectors. CSSC’s commitment to event management and community sports programming ensures that Colorado Springs remains a sports hub and a vibrant and prosperous city for all its residents. / September 12, 2023 / 34
Brianna Goodwin, Chief Development Officer and Lauren DeMarco, Marketing Manager are with the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation.

Economic Development: Tourism

Tourism in Southern Colorado isn’t reaching the heights of the pandemic years, but the Pikes Peak region still attracts hordes of visitors.

“2021 and 2022 were anomalies,” says Doug Price, president and CEO of Visit Colorado Springs. “We were so attractive because of outdoor recreation…now, the world has reopened, and visitors have an infinite number of choices of places that they can go.”

Colorado Springs’ collections of the combined two percent Lodger and one percent Auto Rental Tax (LART) is one indication of the state of the tourism industry. According to the Colorado Springs finance department, LART collections were down in April and May compared with the same months of 2022. But the July report shows an 11.14% increase in collections for the month of June; and for year to date, LART collections were running only 0.53% below the same period of 2022.

Another indicator is enplanements — the number of passenger boardings at the Colorado Springs Airport. COS reported enplanements were up in June, showing a 12.7% increase over June 2022. For year to date, enplanements have increased 2.3% over the same period of 2022.

“We are optimistic about where things are,” Price says. “We just know that the world is catching up.” A record 24 million people visited the Pikes Peak region in 2022, Price says. “I still feel confident and comfortable with the number of visitors that are coming this year,” he continues, “but we’re not taking anything for granted.”


To help boost the numbers, Visit COS is specifically soliciting group business meetings with a campaign financed by a $400,000 grant from the Colorado Tourism Office which launched midsummer. The campaign includes promotional emails targeted toward meeting and event planners, and supplemented with print ads in 2024.

“Group meetings are something that we’re good at,” Price says. “We’ve got good space for it, and with more and more flights at COS, we’re becoming more and more accessible.”

Another focus is improving the visitor experience for people with disabilities. That isn’t just the right thing to

35 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest

do; it’s a smart economic strategy as well, Price says. He cites a study by Longwoods International, a leading tourism market research organization.

“They asked a question this year they’ve never asked before: ‘Was there a member of your travel party with a disability?’” he says. “The answer to that question for Colorado Springs was that 35% said yes. The U.S. norm is 2%.”

The Colorado Tourism Office has provided Visit COS with a $20,000 grant to reach out to that demographic, in connection with, a travel site for people with disabilities.

Representatives from Wheel The World visited Colorado Springs this summer to assess the region’s accommodations, and Price and his staff are promoting amenities such as terrain hoppers — all-terrain vehicles that allow people who use wheelchairs to experience city and county parks with a guide. They’re also promoting lodging properties with facilities to accommodate people with disabilities.

Visit COS is pushing out that information, along with promoting the free downtown bus shuttle, scooters, and e-bikes that make it easier for all visitors to get around. Current promotions also highlight the region’s fall and winter activities. “Those of us blessed to live here know that fall is one of the very best times of the year,” Price says.

“Colorful Colorado is something that we promote every fall.”

Visit COS also is working to

highlight smaller, lesser known tourist businesses via social media, according to Communications Specialist Sheridan Powell.

The easiest and most affordable thing businesses can do is to tag us on social media if they have an event, or they’re closing for a week. Then we can let our teams know and share it.

“Whether it’s El Paso, Teller or Fremont counties, if visitors are an important part of your business, it’s our job to help you be more successful, and we need businesses to keep us informed,” Price says. “There are already over 400 businesses that are already partners of ours, and it grows every month.”

Jeanne Davant is a senior writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.

Events that should attract visitors and locals alike include the annual City for Champions Cup, with women’s soccer teams from Colorado College and the U.S. Air Force Academy competing on Oct. 26 at Weidner Field; the Broadmoor Winter Polo Classic, which takes place Feb. 24, 2024, at the Norris Penrose Event Center; and the Presidents Day Ice Hockey Tournament, Feb. 16-19, 2024, at several rinks in Colorado Springs and Pueblo.


promote the region and themselves by partnering with Visit COS, Price says. Information about partnering is found at VISITCOS.COM/PARTNERS / September 12, 2023 / 36
“ ”
— Sheridan Powell


Dan Schnepf, founding principal of Matrix Design Group, has persevered through nearly a decade of obstacles to bring the U.S. Air Force Academy Visitor Center to life.

Now under construction just outside the Air Force Academy’s north security gate, the visitor center is the linchpin of TrueNorth Commons, a 36-acre development that will include the 375-room Polaris Hotel, an office building that will function as an incubator for innovation in aerospace and cybersecurity, and a retail space for restaurants, shops, and other services.

“Currently we are very close

to having two of those parcels developed,” Schnepf says. “The visitor center will be completed and I will turn it over to the Air Force no later than May 2024. The Air Force anticipates putting in the exhibits and dressing it up to Air Force style, and it will open in December 2025. The hotel will open in November 2024.”

The project is close to Schnepf’s heart in part because he is a 1983 Academy graduate, and because it is expected to attract more than 1 million visitors a year to his beloved Colorado Springs. He founded Blue & Silver Development Partners as master developer for the project and persisted through the pandemic,

bond market fluctuations and rising prices to get it financed and underway.

According to market studies, “it will throw off $105 million annually in economic input to the community,” Schnepf says. “Over a 25-year period, it’s something like $2.6 billion of economic activity. You’re talking about a home run for the community and for the Air Force. That’s really something special.”

The visitor center is the final component of the City for Champions suite of projects that also includes Weidner Field, Ed Robson Arena, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum, and the William Hybl Sports Medicine

37 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest Commercial Development

& Performance Center.

The 35,000-square-foot visitor center will be an eyecatching structure topped by four soaring roof panels that evoke an image of flight. Inside, interactive displays and exhibits will reflect all aspects of cadet life at the Academy.

The hotel, also under construction by G.E. Johnson Construction Co., will feature four-diamond amenities, a 26,000-square-foot conference center, and two restaurants.

Construction of the office building and retail space has not started due to the impact of inflation on the cost of money, goods, and services, Schnepf says, but he expects it to begin next Spring. Despite the rise in the per-squarefoot cost of office and retail rental space, a lead tenant has been acquired for the office building, and initial leasing for

retail space is in progress.

The announcement that Space Command would remain headquartered in Colorado Springs has spurred tenant interest, Schnepf says. But he also expects that “development velocity” will kick in once the visitor center and hotel are built, and “they’ll want to be there and ready to go.”

Jeanne Davant is a senior writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.


To view a video of progress on the project, visit: F.IO/WNVEUUQ8 / September 12, 2023 / 38
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Infrastructure: Energy

As Colorado Springs Utilities prepares for economic development – such as the expansion of semiconductor manufacturer Entegris, the increasing role that Space Command will play, and the arrival of new companies such as solar manufacturer Meyer Burger – it is also undergoing a major transition.

“We’re looking at how we handle economic development, both our large customers who are expanding and prospects who come here and are going to become our customers,” says Jared Miller, CSU’s manager of strategic customer relations, who supervises both account management and economic development efforts.

“But we are also in the middle of one of those generationally foundational transitions in the energy industry — the fossil-fuel-to-renewable movement that’s happening across our country,” he says. “We are investing in more renewables — primarily solar, wind, and storage — to not only provide the energy demands of our growing community but also to respond to the demands and mandates that larger government entities placed upon us.”

CSU has a goal of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2030. The decommissioning of the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant in downtown Colorado Springs, shut down September 2022, was a key step in CSU’s sustainable energy plan.


Among the renewable investments are the 6-megawatt solar array at the U.S. Air Force Academy, completed in 2011, and the Pike Solar Project in eastern Colorado Springs, which will be the largest solar facility in CSU’s system, when completed in 2024. Once online, Pike Solar will generate enough energy to power more than 55,000 homes a year, according to CSU’s website. At that point, CSU’s solar, wind and hydro resources will supply 27% of its energy portfolio. In the next 5 to 10 years, CSU will continue to add solar, battery, and storage resources, Miller says.

A parallel and equally important effort is CSU’s conservation program, he says. “We provide incentives to businesses for energy efficiency upgrades like cooling systems, chillers, boilers, and HVAC systems,” he says. In

39 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest

its commercial business efficiency program, CSU partners with commercial customers for energy audits and shared costs for some capital improvements identified through the audits. It’s one of CSU’s most popular programs, Miller says. While it can benefit businesses of any size, it provides the greatest ROI for larger companies.

CSU assigns individual account managers for midmarket businesses — those with $50,000 or more per year in utility revenue — and also assigns account managers for sectors such as restaurants and lodging, to help them find appropriate programs. The best way for businesses to connect with CSU account managers is to engage with their industry associations, Miller says.

“The assigned account manager for the restaurant sector is part of the Colorado Restaurant Association [Pikes Peak chapter] and engages in that community,” he says. “We’re also a part of the Apartment Association of Southern Colorado and other groups, bringing utility information and pitching our programs.”

Additionally, CSU has taken steps to ensure the supply of one of Colorado’s scarcest resources — water. Its biggest investment has been the $825 million Southern Delivery System, completed in 2016, which enables the city to take advantage of its water rights on the Arkansas River. The utility also continues to negotiate water-sharing agreements like the two programs developed in 2015 through the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association. These agreements ensure

adequate water will stay in areas such as Bent County to maintain agriculture and economic vitality there, while providing new water supply for Colorado Springs, says CSU spokesperson Jennifer Jordan. “We expect to develop additional water sharing agreements in the Lower Arkansas Valley, most of which are expected to occur in Bent County,” Jordan says.

On the economic development front, CSU offers midsized and large businesses looking to be in Colorado Springs a one-stop shopping experience for utilities – electricity, gas, water, and wastewater. “It’s a unique and valuable asset to have four services combined in one utility, with one account manager to handle everything you need,” Miller says. “We are also a citizen-owned utility, with great representation through our Utility Board. We tell companies, ‘You have influence on how this utility is run.’”

“Colorado Springs is a desirable place to live, work, and play,” Miller says. “Part of that is that our rates and our reliability factor of 99.9% have attracted data centers and large manufacturers. And part of that is the investments we have made in our electric system and the continued investment we make in transitioning from fossil to renewables.”


about business incentives and rebates is found at CSU.ORG/PAGES/BUSINESSREBATES.ASPX / September 12, 2023 / 40
Jeanne Davant is a senior writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.

Innovation: Military


In 2021, Second Lieutenant Evan Pomfret, then a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA), stood in a classroom giving a capstone project review to a small group of Defense Department sponsors. He and a team of three fellow cadets were tasked with the project by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) – develop a covert means of attaching a sensor to a target in a secure location.

While Pomfret and his team explained their idea, process, and approach, their proposed solution was hiding in plain sight — just as intended. To most in the room, it looked like a piece of trash, out of place perhaps on an otherwise wellmanicured campus, but posing no concern.

Now, this unassuming but hightech device is in line to produce the 52nd patent for the USAFA, serving as a reminder of the possibilities when private industry intersects with the Academy.

Under patent review is a cylindrical robot cleverly disguised as a soda can. With the help of a remotecontrol operator, it maneuvers into place, opens a hatch, extends an arm, and attaches a sensor or microphone to an intended target, all without raising suspicion. Pomfret and his team glued wheels to a Coke can, then tossed it under a desk in plain sight of everybody during the capstone project review. It remained there during the presentation and, at

the end, the cadets asked if anyone could see their prototype.

“No one had any idea what we were talking about, even though we had discussed this idea of this Coke can as being a proposed design,” says Pomfret. “Even having the idea planted in their head did not reveal to them that our prototype was sitting right in front of them.”

Community Collaboration

“It was an exciting challenge,” admits Mike Anderson, professor of mechanical engineering at USAFA, who served as advisor on the project. “Like something you see in action movies, something far-fetched and

futuristic, and yet here was an actual sponsor that was asking us to try to create it.”

Pomfret’s capstone project turned potential patent is just one example of many that have resulted from pairing research capabilities and resources that most companies do not have with USAFA cadets who must complete research projects as part of their graduation requirements.

While DTRA provided the task, SAFE Inc., an R&D-based engineering firm in Monument, served as the sponsor. After successfully supporting smaller USAFA projects in the past, the firm was eager to deepen its partnership. “It became clear that having some additional

41 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest
USAFA CADETS present their prototype design to their Defense Department project sponsors. The cadets are (L to R), now Air Force Second Lieutenants Kate Fitzpatrick, Evan Pomfret and Jacob Echevarria.

engineering perspectives on various projects was helpful not only for the cadets and the faculty but also for getting a better product out to customers,” shares Sarah Galyon Dorman, vice president and principal scientist at the firm.

The project was distinct for more than just its Hollywood finale. “It wasn’t clear when we started what the questions were that we needed to ask, or what the answers might be,” explains Anderson.

Following a discovery and framing process, Pomfret and his team realized they needed to narrow the scope. DTRA had intentionally been vague to allow the cadets maximum freedom and flexibility to design a novel solution. “We asked DTRA if we could narrow it down to a certain problem,” says Pomfret, “and that was, can we narrow it down to a target vehicle that is protected in some kind of secured area by means of guards, cameras, offense, or some other barrier, and we needed to attach a sensor to this target vehicle.”

DTRA agreed and the cadet team

moved forward with user interviews and design activities, including mind mapping. Each milestone followed the defense acquisitions process lifecycle to devise proposed solutions. As the group of four cadets convened with their advisor, an idea evolved to design the device in such a way that it might look like an everyday object, perhaps even garbage, a common sight in many of the areas in which the military operates. With that — and a little help from private industry — the covert robot can was born.

Inspiring the Next Generation

For Anderson, getting cadets thinking is the fun part. He focuses on teaching his students the methods and tools to be creative, ultimately devising new and interesting solutions. “My job is really to arrange these projects for the cadets and my goal in doing so is to try to find something that will motivate them, inspire them, something that they’ll become passionate about and want to really work overtime on.”

For private industry, the experience appears just as rewarding. “It’s always really interesting to work with cadet teams and see how far they can actually take things in a pretty short amount of time,” says Dorman. “It was really cool to see them pull off the design and be able to demonstrate it to the customer. And then even cooler to see it turn into a potential patent for them.”

Real-world Solutions

The opportunity to make a positive difference in the world is real. “You

have an opportunity to really create an incredible learning experience for the cadets who we think are going to go out and be the future leaders of our nation,” says Anderson. “It’s an opportunity to positively impact the future of our country in a way that’s pretty low investment.”

Pomfret, is now a 62E — Air Force lingo for a developmental engineer — stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base in Boston, where he is dedicated to designing, developing, and managing the development of weapon systems. “Now that I’ve graduated, commissioned, and I’m working, it’s kind of exciting because I see the parallels between what we did in Caps [capstone project] and what I do now as an officer. That was pretty cool.”

He points to a recent trip to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar where he was tasked with conducting unit interviews, learning their pain points, and conducting A/B testing. “All these things that we learned during capstone that we were introduced to, I’ve now been able to build upon since commissioning for my current unit, and then implement them under real operational conditions, working with war fighters to better serve their needs.”

While still pending, the covert robot can patent will join 51 others proudly displayed on individual plaques outside the USAFA’s Research Office. Over half of those patents have come in the last five or six years, and cadets and staff regularly stop to view them, a reminder of the incredible work — and opportunities — happening on campus every day. / September 12, 2023 / 42
Kim Daly is a staff writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest. A DEMONSTRATION of the cadets’ prototype robot placing a device on a truck.

Air Force Colonel Karol Bobko was a member of the Academy’s first graduating class in 1959 and was the first Academy Graduate to serve as a NASA Astronaut. He formally transferred to NASA in 1969 and is the only astronaut to have flown on the maiden voyages of two space shuttles: the Challenger, as pilot, in April 1983 and the Atlantis, as commander, in October 1985. He also served as commander on Space Shuttle Discovery in April 1985.

Following graduation from the Academy, and earning a navigator rating, Colonel Bobko trained as a pilot and completed assignments with two fighter squadrons before selection as an Air Force test pilot, eventually training as an astronaut. His first role as an astronaut was with the Air Force Manned Orbiter Laboratory Program which was cancelled in 1966. His NASA role spanned the Apollo, Skylab, ApolloSoyuz, and space shuttle programs. He retired from NASA and the Air Force in 1988. In retirement he continued efforts in the final frontier in corporate, government and consultant roles.

Colonel Bobko, age 85, died August 17 in Half Moon Bay, California. He is survived by his wife, Dianne (Welsh); his son, Paul; his daughter, Michelle; and his brother, Peter.

The life of retired Air Force Colonel Karol Bobko was recently honored at the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery.

43 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest
In Memoriam
SPACE SHUTTLE CHALLENGER assembled for launch along with the ET and two SRBs - atop a crawler-transporter en route to the launch pad. COL. KAROL BOBKO IN 1979

Sector Report: Space Command


On the heels of Colorado Springs being named the permanent home of U.S. Space Command, local businesses and organizations in the space sector are relishing in the win, one that will boost our local economy and drive job creation throughout the region.

The announcement’s impact is significant.

Defense contractor Delta Solutions and Strategies, the 2023 U.S. Small Business Administration National Prime Contractor of the Year, won a $187 million, 5-year contract in 2022, making it the primary contractor on US Space Command for professional and technical services.

This was the largest defense contract awarded to a Colorado Springs-based contractor in 2022. The contract meant an increase of 190 personnel as well as the addition of 10,000 square feet of office space at Delta’s Colorado Springs headquarters, which opened last month.

Delta Solutions and Strategies, founded in 2000, creates military training products, operations and maintenance, modeling and simulations, and professional and technical advisory and assistance services for the Department of Defense.

Delta is currently managing 46 contracts valued at over $370M. With 380 employees and over 180 subcontractors, Delta hit an annual revenue of $80M in 2022. The company has increased revenues ten-fold in the last five years, from $10M to $110M.

“Delta is only as good as its people and Colorado Springs is an ideal location to attract and recruit qualified talent who are committed to the mission.” states Mark Stafford, President and CEO, Delta Solutions and Strategies. “We are extremely grateful

to our customers and valued partners throughout the industry who trust Delta with this important work. It is an honor to serve our colleagues, and country, in protecting our space assets and ensuring our freedoms around the globe.”

As the home to multiple military installations and a history rooted in the growing space sector, Colorado Springs remains an attractive place to do, and grow, business. At companies like Delta, they importance of being agile and responsive to deliver on the mission. More than 65 percent of their employees have served.

45 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest
Larry Stubblefield, Isabel Guzman, SBA and Mark Stafford
INTERESTED IN CAREER OPPORTUNITIES in the expanding field of space defense? Visit: DELTASANDS.COM



Lionel Rivera, Former mayor of Colorado springs Legacy Award (Lifetime Achievement)

Minuteman Press Hispanic Business of the Year

Dr. Michael Claudio, Harrison School District 2 Hispanic Business Person of the Year

Mayola Cisneros, Children’s Hospital Colorado Hispanic Rising Professional of the Year

John Martinez, MBA, Polar Bear Furnace & AC Hispanic Emerging Business of the Year

Innovation: Military


The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) Research Office serves as the administrative support hub for faculty and cadet researchers, helping them to execute roughly $40 million in research activities annually. That makes the USAFA the top-funded undergraduate research institution in the nation. It also means they have hundreds of research projects happening at any time.

Amy Berg is the Research Office’s outreach program manager. “We actually complete more research projects, execute more research funding, than any of the other military service academies,” she says. The campus’ 24 research centers and institutes span all departments and academic divisions, including the humanities, social sciences, and STEM.

Despite the dizzying numbers, not every project that comes through the office meets the requirements for a federal research laboratory, such as the USAFA. Vetting projects requires a delicate balance between meeting those federal requirements and deriving maximum educational value for cadets, while benefiting the Department of Defense as well as private industry.

Not surprisingly, much of the draw to collaborate with USAFA lies within its vast array of unique

research and resource capabilities. For instance, the onsite aeronautics lab boasts one of just three Ludwieg hypersonic tubes in the world. Ultimately, the Research Office never loses sight of the fact that these are taxpayer-funded assets. By law, they must be offered to anyone with a legitimate reason to access them.

Teresa Whinnery, technology transfer program manager at the Research Office, explains, “Part of our mission is to ensure that we are creating technology that can be transferred throughout the Department of Defense and that we can bring in or share outside of USAFA.”

Daniel Finkelstein, associate dean of research at USAFA, shares, “We’re solving important problems, we’re solving wicked problems, difficult things that have national impact. I think there’s broad

recognition nationally of what the capabilities of this institution are, and that’s led to an increase in research dollars, research partnerships, interesting, complex, important problems, and the patents are a byproduct of that.”

Those patents wouldn’t be possible without the support of the larger community. “We’re always seeking opportunities to collaborate,” says Mike Anderson, professor of mechanical engineering. “The reason I work here and I think it’s a fabulous place to work is that I can really multiply my impact on the world by influencing the hundreds of cadets through the years that have come through my classes and worked in my design program.” / September 12, 2023 / 48
Kim Daly is a staff writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.
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The Colorado Venture Capital Authority (VCA) and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) announced that the VCA has partnered with Colorado ONE Fund, based in Colorado Springs, to expand access to venture capital for Colorado’s small defense and aerospace companies. The partnership is one of the VCA’s largest investments and its first in a fund based in southern Colorado. The VCA has committed up to $17 million to catalyze the fund and attract private investors.

Kevin O’Neil, managing partner and CEO of The O’Neil Group and a principal of Colorado ONE Fund says he is grateful to VCA and OEDIT for partnering with his firm on the fund. “Our team of experts, with over 250 years of combined experience in the Department of Defense and Tech, are thrilled to offer our knowledge and networks to support the growth of small companies in Colorado, yielding an increase in jobs, economic sustainability, and community development,” says O’Neil.

The VCA investment in Colorado ONE Fund is funded through the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) awarded to the state of Colorado by the U.S. Treasury Department in August 2022. SSBCI is focused on expanding access to capital for businesses with fewer than 10 employees and to businesses led by individuals who identify as coming from underresourced communities and geographies. ONE Fund expects the investment from the state of Colorado will continue to advance the ecosystem of the Catalyst Campus, in addition to a host of economic benefits in and around the downtown Colorado Springs area.

“Colorado Springs has a collaborative and forwardthinking business community, and as an entrepreneur and small business owner myself, I can attest to how valuable expanding access to venture capital is for

our city,” said Mayor Yemi Mobolade. “Creating and sustaining a vibrant economic landscape takes innovative solutions,” Mobolade says. He feels it is important to continue to drive the area’s success in defense and aerospace and expand opportunities for veteran and minority business owners in those areas. He says, “Our entire business community is closely interconnected, so this is truly a win for everyone in Colorado Springs.”


Company Characteristics

National Defense Impact

Disruptive Technology


Industry Influence

Aerospace & Defense

Homeland Security

Technology & Innovation / September 12, 2023 / 50
Venture Capital


An online tool developed by Manufacturer’s Edge is linking manufacturers with suppliers and potential clients in Southern Colorado and throughout the state. The Colorado Manufacturing Network launched a little more than a year and a half ago in response to the pandemic supply chain crisis. It was envisioned as a single platform where manufacturers could find resources closer to their plants, and where primary manufacturers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) could connect with smaller shops.

Since its founding, the network has shown the potential to become much more, says Rob Newbold, vice president of client success for Manufacturer’s Edge. Newbold currently also serves as regional contact for Southern Colorado manufacturers.

“There are a couple of elements to the Colorado Manufacturing Network,” Newbold says. “One is the technology that allows manufacturers who are in the supply chain to put their profiles up on the platform for free and be able to interact with their community, their suppliers, and nearby community members – much like a LinkedIn

approach – and build community around the Southern Colorado area,” he says. “Additionally, they now are able to bid on projects with their expertise and win contracts through the platform.”

Companies who want to use the commercial application can participate through a subscription or bid on a single project.

The platform has been considerably built out by manufacturers who have added their profiles, and Newbold urges both manufacturers who are looking for suppliers and suppliers themselves to sign up as well. “There is no cost

Manufacturer’s Edge

Manufacturer’s Edge is the official Colorado center designated by the Manufacturers Extension Program (MEP), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The program provides grant funding to support, grow, and improve Colorado’s manufacturing landscape. Besides contacts and commercial assistance, the Colorado Manufacturing Network gives companies the ability to earn a verification badge, Newbold says.

51 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest
to sign up,” he says.

“Once they’re on the platform, they’re able to ask for our staff to do a verification visit,” he says. “That gives them a verified badge that says, as a third party entity, the MEP program has gone in and looked at any certifications for quality or small business certifications. We’ve looked at their equipment to ensure it is in operating order. We’ve looked at their profile experience and can see indications that they have this experience. So it gives them an opportunity to raise their viability as a supplier to OEMs and other buyers.” Newbold says he expects that program to be expanded this fall with additional verification services.

Along with partners – including the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Association, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and the Economic Development Council of Colorado – Manufacturer’s Edge also is looking to establish the network as a platform to begin addressing bigger issues such as workforce development, he says. In part, that will be accomplished through recruiting partners including community colleges, government agencies, nonprofits, and other agencies with workforce development responsibilities, all of which will share resources on the platform.

“We see it as a one-stop shop for some of those workforce services to be highlighted to manufacturers,” Newbold says. “So a manufacturer in Pueblo will be able to see the PEDCO (Pueblo Economic Development Corp.) site and be able to interact with them. A manufacturer in Colorado Springs will see Pikes Peak State College and be able to access programs through there.”

The network is building out a workforce resource map of these organizations that will be expanded over the next three to four months, he says. The network

website also will be expanded this fall to include access to capital resources such as Small Business Administration loans and equipment financing through local banks, adds Newbold.

Companies affected by the pandemic currently can apply for Small Business Recovery Grants, a program administered by Manufacturer’s Edge that provides assistance in improving operations, boosting productivity, leveraging data, training leaders, and growing business. “They’re able to go on our Recovery Grants site right now, and we’re anticipating expanding that with some additional dedicated funding,” Newbold says.

Manufacturer’s Edge also plans to offer one-day Lean 101 training sessions in Colorado Springs later this year and early next year, he says. This course focuses on maximizing customer value while minimizing waste without compromising productivity.

Dates and times will be announced on the Manufacturer’s Edge website this fall. “We encourage companies to come in and learn some of those skills,” Newbold says.

Jeanne Davant is a senior writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.


or to register for the advisory board sessions: MANUFACTURERSEDGE.COM/GRANTS-APPLY


on the Colorado Manufacturing Network: MANUFACTURERSEDGE.COM/CO-MFG-NETWORK / September 12, 2023 / 52


The Colorado/Kansas/ Utah division of CommonSpirit awarded funds to support mental health, food security, as well as social justice and health equity needs. The 48 organizations will receive grants through its $5 million Health Equity & Advancement Fund. Created in 2021, the program has awarded more than $11 million to date.

Oswaldo Grenardo, MD, SVP, says the fund “supports us in delivering care and healing where our patients and their families need it most, whether it’s a meal, suicide prevention services, or programs to further support health equity within our communities.” Grenardo, who is the chief clinical officer for the Colorado/Kansas/Utah division, says, “Our shared calling for a healthier future means we must embrace our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable, to ensure we can reach those who might otherwise go without services.”

The awarded grants range between $50,000 and $150,000 for programs that serve diverse and underserved populations. Additionally, the program collaborated with existing regional partners to increase social impact, including the Why Not You Foundation and the Denver Broncos Foundation.

Some of the Colorado Springs nonprofits awarded grants include:

• Ascending to Health Respite Care

• Catholic Charities of Central Colorado

• Centro de la Familia

• Face It TOGETHER, Inc.


CommonSpirit assumed direct management of 20 Centura Health hospitals and 240 physician practices and clinics, effective August 1, 2023. Patients who visit one of these facilities will begin to see the transition to the CommonSpirit name.

53 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest
Regional News Inspirational IQ
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.”
— Anon
The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.
— Mark Zuckerberg
People tend to not buy what you do so much as they buy WHY you do it.”
— Anon

Business Expertise: Branding


Welcome to Brand Bytes! Low Calorie, High Impact Brand Strategy

Appetizers, By me, Suzanne Tulien, Principal, Brand Ascension

This brandbyte is all about realizing you are ALREADY branded. AND I don’t just mean through a logo design!

EVERY BUSINESS has a brand, good, bad, or indifferent. The real question is, “Are YOU in control of the perceptions others have of your brand?”

When we understand that our business brand is simply a perception that lives in the minds of our employees and customers, then we begin to understand that we have the ability to create and manage the experiences others have when transacting with our brand. Did you know that in the first 7 seconds of contact, your customer picks up on 11 or more impressions of your brand? From what they see, hear, smell, taste, touch and intuit, they are processing all that is going on consciously and subconsciously which helps them form opinions of the experience.

As business owners we have all kinds of congruent, innovative, and engaging ways to influence those perceptions by creating a branded

multi-sensory experience. Remember the quote by James Gilmore and Joseph Pine in the book, The Experience Economy… “In the Absence of a distinctive Brand Experience, PRICE, becomes the default, in your customer’s purchase decision.” Don’t let the customer develop perceptions because of the lack of distinction in your brand!

What do I mean by that? Well, based on your brand’s unique Dimensional Nucleic Assets or ‘DNA’ attributes – you can deliberately and strategically design a distinctive and memorable experience.

Starbucks brand platform is ‘DAILY INSPIRATION’ - Think about how they design their stores with comfortable chairs, cool music, the hum of conversation, the flow of coffee making, the eye contact & communication to the customers.

Disney, is another master of influence as they continue to perpetuate the perception of MAGICAL AND FANTASY through brilliant colors, bigger than life characters, piped in music and birds chirping throughout the park all in their efforts to instill magic and fantasy in their guests minds. Not to mention the intense trainings their ‘cast members’ go through to create the perfect guest experience.

Knowing your Brand’s DNA values, style, differentiators, and standards of performance, brand platform and promise makes it easy to get ultra creative and will inspire you to design unique experiences at every customer touch-point, and even in how you recruit, hire, train and manage your employees!

The key learning point of this Brand Byte is – If YOU don’t consciously, strategically and deliberately manage the perceptions your brand currently creates…. your customers will!

That is my ‘Brand Byte’ for this time – hope you didn’t get too full! For more information on step-bystep business brand DNA process, my Brand DNA in a Day program, and book, Brand DNA, go to www. And remember, your brand IS your business! / September 12, 2023 / 54
Suzanne Tulien is a brand clarity expert with Brand Ascension, and author and speaker.


Ross Sandoval says the best decision he ever made was moving his custom art framing business, Ross Studios, to North Colorado Springs.

The business was doing well enough at its previous location on North Weber Street, but the space was starting to feel cramped. Sandoval was doing a lot of largescale framing, which was difficult in the low-ceilinged store, and the room lacked gallery display space.

“We always had the idea of moving up to the Flying Horse area,” Sandoval says. Three years ago, he found the perfect spot.

Since Ross Studios opened in The Shoppes at Flying Horse, Sandoval has been able to expand both his retail offerings and his clientele. The gallery now offers a large selection of framed art and photography that includes fine art and nature prints by award-winning photographer Doug Bennett. Many of his customers moved with him, and he has made new friends and clients from as far away as Castle Rock and South Denver.

Sandoval’s wife Kim, who helps with marketing and finances, says the business has seen a 40 percent increase in gross revenue since the move.

Many of their customers walk in with artwork, including a lot of current and former military people who want to frame memorabilia. Sandoval also works with commercial clients — one of his first projects after the move was a large installation at Classic Homes’ corporate office.

An artist himself, Sandoval learned the business of framing from his mentor, George Kemper, at Kemper Galleries in Downtown Colorado Springs, where he worked for 14 years before starting Ross Studios out of his garage in 2014. The business grew rapidly when clients recognized his attention to detail and craftsmanship.

“I’m inspired by the past — art history and how it was produced

way back in the day,” he says. “That’s something I try to apply to every single piece of artwork, whether it be a masterpiece or a render from a child.”

For the Sandovals, relationships are everything, and they love it when someone walks in as a client and leaves as a friend.

“We’re also hoping that we can be the catalyst for growing the art community in the North End,” Kim says.

Jeanne Davant is a senior writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.

55 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest Small Business Profile

5-Star Bank

Better Business Bureau

Boot Barn Hall

Boubon Brothers Smokehouse & Tavern

Business Digest Weekly Radio

Colorado Springs Hispanic Chamber/El Concilio

Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Group

Financial Talent Group

First National Bank of Colorado

KKTV 11News

Marquesa Hobbs, Realtor/Colorado Hearthstone Properties/ The Platinum Group Realtors

Notes Bar

Notes Live

Safe Passage

Salem Media

So. Co. Women’s Chamber of Commerce

Sunset Amphitheater

Virtuent Private Wealth

WCG, Inc.

Thank you to each and every advertiser listed herein. / September 12, 2023 / 56 Advertiser Index / In Alphabetical Order September 12, 2023
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