So Colorado Business Forum & Digest Vol. 2, No. 2 | February 27, 2024

Page 18

Access / Opportunity / Connectivity / Visibility / Insights HOST YOUR EVENT AT LISTEN TO The Home of New Springs Neighborhood? Partnership Reimagines Prime 26 Acres $4.95 USA / MANUFACTURING P. 9 Manufacturer’s Edge Adds Legal Services Partner BUSINESS P. 27 Who Owns the Vet Hospitals? ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT P. 40 Cultural Venues and Events Boost Talent Attraction Vol. 2 No. 2 / February 27, 2024
1 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest
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Dirk R. Hobbs


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Pam Bales, Jeanne Davant & Wayne Heilman STAFF WRITERS

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The So.




Working on Southern Colorado’s Workforce Readiness

Whether you are an employer, educator, manager or community leader, you are aware of the shared concerns around homegrown workforce readiness, specifically for high school direct-to-market students.

It’s not just a SoCo issue — it’s a national issue. The good news is, as an economic region and community at large, we’re not waiting for “someone else” to address it. Industries, community leaders and educators are working together on solutions to help students experience and engage the world that awaits them on the other side of graduation.

Some leaders in the region are well downstream in creating attainable, real-world solutions and experience for students who have identified specific ambitions that match our region’s strong sectors (i.e., aerospace, cyber, manufacturing, and advanced manufacturing). Others have identified programmatic elements that allow the future workforce to work in one-of-a-kind internship and apprenticeship programs in the arts, media, culinary arts, hospitality and tourism.

This bold, powerful, out-of-the-box thinking can create real world solutions for the next gen workforce and for employers. Admittedly, some of the changes will inevitably be met with challenges as the respective agendas of employers, educators, and community leaders may not align — at least initially.

The good news: we recognize the problem exists and that it will take an all-hands-on-

3 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest
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deck approach to remedy. We also know it will take unconventional approaches to work together to prepare our next generation workforce for employment in realms currently advancing industry and commerce at an unprecedented pace.

This is not just for the highly technical jobs in aerospace, cyber and advanced manufacturing. It includes jobs in manufacturing, healthcare, retail, sports, hospitality, tourism, agriculture and the professional services realms.

By taking a comprehensive and collaborative approach to workforce readiness, we believe that southern Colorado can strengthen its economy, attract

new businesses and provide meaningful employment opportunities for its residents. With great effort, widespread dedication and a unified commitment to preparing the workforce of tomorrow, we can build a brighter future for our region.

Onward! / Vol. 2 No. 2 - February 27, 2024 / 4
Union Printers Home, circa 1891.

United States Air Force Academy cadets attend the 31st annual National Character and Leadership Symposium. P. 36


11 Leaders Plan Union Printers Home Redevelopment

Once home to retired print workers, this space’s future could make room for families, business, tourism and more — all situated around a castle. And the group hoping to develop the space are among Colorado’s business, social and philanthropic royalty.

14 Economic Growth Lessons from Slow Residual

Robert Solow’s theory of technological progress driving growth helps explain the leaps and bounds of the last 150 years; but what can it tell us about the upcoming decades?

17 Alliance Opens Pipeline to Better Jobs, Skilled Workforce

The Colorado Chamber’s report provides key policy recommendations to strive for a cleaner environment and a healthier economy.

21 Roadmap Lays Out Path to Sustainable Future for Colorado

Gov. Jared Polis sees the interconnectivity of affordable housing, transportation and climate change. Read more about the course he’s plotting toward continued innovation and strategic growth.


16 Collaboration Gets Affordable Housing Project Off the Ground

Once luxury housing, this former condominium project will boast an additional 168 units for those making 60% AMI or less. Three local nonprofits teamed up to make the dream a reality.


28 The Biscuit Factory Offers Cat Lovers

a Social Scene

New to Colorado Springs, this westside establishment introduces feline companionship and potential human partners in a manner that benefits the furry and fur lovers too.

39 Castle Rock’s Theatre of Dreams

The magic lives on at this Castle Rock venue which offers world-class entertainment, courtesy of two longtime professionals.


19 Report Says Job Market Remains Resilient

In eighth place for highest median salary in Q4 2023, Colorado’s job vacancies dropped 3.5% during the same time. Specifics on the state’s job vacancies and salaries in 2023 are available here.


33 UCCS Builds Cybersecurity Ecosystem, Seeks Continued Funding

With 22,000 open jobs in Colorado, higher education has stepped in to find or create talent in an industry that is growing at the speed of light.


37 Need a Summer Intern? Apply Here. By prescreening applicants, teaching elements of professionalism and encouraging rigorous expectations, Pikes Peak Business & Education Alliance matches businesses with qualified interns.

5 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest Contents / February 27, 2024
U.S. Air Force photo/Trevor Cokley

Updates From Around the Region

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs Rises in National Gender Pay Gap Chart

Several Colorado cities are listed among those with the worst gender-based pay discrepancies in the country, according to a study published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Data was collected by comparing the salaries of full-time, year-round workers from 2021 to 2022.

Colorado Springs achieved the 39th rank among cities with the largest gender pay gaps, reporting a difference of $12,645; the city had been ranked 48th the previous year. Four other Colorado cities ranked among those with the widest pay gaps, including Fort Collins (12th), Aurora (23rd), Lakewood (50th) and Denver (90th). Aurora saw the third-largest pay gap increase in the nation with a year-over-year increase of $10,770.

Overall, Colorado has the eighth largest gender-based pay gap in the country, with a discrepancy of $13,696 between male and female full-time workers.

The fight for gender-based pay equity has been slightly more fruitful nationwide. A decade ago, female workers earned roughly 80% of their male counterparts’ earnings, and today that figure has increased to 82%. The nation’s pay gap averages $11,069 with a year-over-year increase of -$96.

Grant Funds New Space Discovery Lab

Visitors to the Space Foundation’s Space Discovery Center will have a new realm to explore when the Boeing Additive Manufacturing Space Lab is completed. The 826-square-foot lab will feature immersive education in additive manufacturing — the process of building an object one layer at a time through techniques such as 3D design and printing. The lab will serve students, teachers and industry around the globe through distance learning capabilities.

The lab was made possible by a grant from The Boeing Co. The amount of the grant was not made public, but Space Foundation Vice President of Development Suzanne Musgrave says, “it is a significant investment in the Space Discovery Center.”

Boeing extensively uses additive manufacturing and aims to be at the forefront of this technology for future crewed space missions, according to a Feb. 12 release. Skilled professionals in related fields are in high demand, and Boeing is partnering with Space Foundation to address this talent gap. The lab’s programming will target students as young as first grade to nurture skills and interest.

The Space Discovery Center currently is closed for remodeling and expansion. It is expected to reopen to the public May 4.


Colorado Hosts the Newest National Park

Granada, a tiny town in southeast Colorado, is now home to the newest U.S. National Park, the Amache National Historic Site. This designation comes nearly two years after President Joe Biden signed the Amache National Historic Site Act as a significant effort of remembrance of the Japanese-Americans once detained in the Granada Relocation Center.

The park was formerly one of 10 Japanese internment camps created by the U.S. government during World War II. The Granada Relocation Center housed over 10,000 individuals during its operation between August 1942 and 1945. State and federal advocates have supported the National Park designation since the site achieved National Historic Landmark status in 2006.

“Japanese American internment during World War II is a dark stain on our past,” says U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper. “By preserving sites like Camp Amache, future generations will learn the entirety of our history.”

LEARN MORE about Camp Amache’s history at:


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Regional Professional Business Organization Links & Events

BBB of Southern Colorado

Castle Rock Chamber

Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC

The Colorado Springs Black Chamber

Colorado Springs Hispanic Chamber

Downtown Colorado Springs Partnership

The Greater Pueblo Chamber

Latino Chamber of Commerce of Pueblo, Inc.

Pueblo Economic Development Corp.

Royal Gorge Chamber Alliance

Colorado SBDC - Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center

Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber

Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Visitor Center

Trinidad & Las Animas County Chamber of Commerce / Vol. 2 No. 2 - February 27, 2024 / 8


Small- and medium-sized businesses can now avail themselves of subscriptionbased legal services through Manufacturer’s Edge.

Manufacturer’s Edge, which provides support, strategy, planning, training and technical assistance to manufacturers of all sizes, partnered with Denver firm 3i Law to offer cost-effective legal services tailored to the needs of manufacturers, says Jennifer Hagan-Dier, Manufacturer’s Edge vice president and COO. The service complements HR on Demand, a partnership with Denver-based CourtSide Consulting that helps manufacturers develop a custom human resources handbook and provides 12 months of ongoing support.

Working with 3i Law, Manufacturer’s Edge put together a program for legal support across a broad range of topics including succession and growth planning, trademarks and copyrights, leases, employment agreements, corporate

governance, intellectual property and business structure, Hagan-Dier says.

A basic monthly package covers up to two hours of consulting; one hour of contract review and research; and development of four legal documents per year. This package costs $1,395 per month, and additional services not covered in a package are available at a 20% discount. Companies also can customize packages to their needs and budgets and get ad hoc services.

“Considering billable rates for most companies, that’s actually not that much if you’re using it,” Hagan-Dier says. “This is like having a lawyer on staff that you can call regularly, which is cheaper than hiring somebody in house.”

“If you just need to consult with an attorney about a trademark issue, you don’t have to have a monthly fee for that,” she says. “You can go directly to 3i, and we can introduce you to them.”

HR on Demand helps manufacturers streamline HR processes, provides consults with

certified HR professionals and gives clients access to an online resource library that includes a catalog of job descriptions, checklists for common HR topics, training videos and podcasts, as well as audit tools to identify compliance gaps.

Manufacturer’s Edge also provides Scale-up Solutions, a catalog of low- and no-cost resources for growing businesses; assists businesses with obtaining small manufacturing recovery grants, which are still available through October; and hosts the Colorado Manufacturing Network, which aims to alleviate supply chain issues by connecting buyers and suppliers.

“We’ve been looking at accounting and tax preparation as well,” Hagan-Dier says.

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

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A New Kind of Neighborhood in Colorado Springs

Apartnership of well-known Colorado Springs business leaders is planning a major redevelopment of the historic Union Printers Home complex east of the city’s downtown area, according to plans submitted late last year to city planners.

UPH Partners is seeking approval for a redevelopment plan, rezoning and changes in some building height restrictions on 26.2 acres southeast of Union Boulevard and Pikes Peak Avenue. Plans call for retaining the existing four historic buildings and adding up to a dozen others to create a mixed-use neighborhood called Printers Hill. The requests likely

will be considered by the Colorado Springs Planning Commission and City Council this spring.

Susan Loo Pattee, one of seven partners in the project, says the group was formed to save the historic structures from demolition after state officials shut down a nursing home operating in the complex. Other partners include Kevin O’Neil, visionary of the Catalyst Campus (and revitalization of eastern downtown); Jim Johnson, former CEO of GE Johnson Holdings; Tony Bettis, CEO of All-Pro Capital; James Loo, director of the Bloom Foundation; philanthropist Ward Berlin and an undisclosed partner.

“The vision for the entire property is making space for families, kids and outdoors lovers –it will be like a new neighborhood,” Pattee says. “The plan is for a multi-story, mixed commercial and residential development. The castle (the primary building on the property) would become a 200room hotel with an addition that is modern but compatible with the historic building, without mimicking it. We will be adding onto all four (historic) buildings.”

UPH Partners hopes to select a partner by mid-summer that will secure financing and oversee development which Pattee estimates

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Land Development
Rendering of Printers Hill; UPH Partners hopes to redevelop 26.2 acres on the southeast side of Colorado Springs.

will cost between $500 million and $1 billion and create more than 1.5 million square feet of hotel, office and retail space; townhouses; condominiums and apartments; a food hall and food garden/ greenhouse; parking garages and a possible museum over the next 10-20 years. Construction is scheduled to begin in mid-to-late 2026, she says.

The partnership also plans to seek approval later this year to become an urban renewal area and create up to six metro districts that would issue tax-exempt bonds to pay for public improvements, including streets, public areas and other infrastructure. The urban renewal designation allows developers to issue bonds repaid by tax revenue that the project generates, called tax-increment financing, which is only available in urban renewal areas.

Collaborate and Iterate

project the front porch of Colorado Springs, which refers to the front porch of the castle building.”

The project is designed around the “castle” building and will include a large west-facing lawn area in front of the structure and a “quad” or central plaza between the four historic buildings meant to be a public gathering place for dining, shopping, shows and other activities. Other open space could include an underground museum dedicated to the site’s 132-year history of caring for retired members of the International Typographical Union.

“We wanted the plan to feel cohesive and well designed for people, without feeling like an outdoor shopping mall, that has a sense of place compatible with its history,” Pattee says. “Potentially, the project is similar to Union Station (on the west edge of downtown Denver), which has been called Denver’s living room. We call this

The project partners hired Boston-based planning firm Sasaki to come up with redevelopment plans for the property. The company has completed dozens of projects worldwide including in the River North (RINO) area of Denver, the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio and the Carlsberg District in Copenhagen. Sasaki also organized trips for partners to Toronto’s Distillery District and Walter Reed Hospital in Virginia to tour other similar historic property redevelopment projects.

The partnership is seeking approval to build structures up to 104 feet tall, above the current 65- and 85-foot height restrictions on the property, mostly along the perimeter of the property to preserve views of the castle from all four directions, Pattee says. The tallest structures, up to 10 stories, are proposed near the lowest point of the 26-acre site, she says.

The partners have met with residents of surrounding neighborhoods several times during the past year — including Knob Hill to the north, Hillside to the southeast and K-land to the south — to seek feedback on the types of redevelopment and reactions to the plans submitted to city planners. Pattee says about 45 people attended a meeting with city planners and partners in January, and reaction was generally favorable.

The partnership was formed after All Pro Capital partners Bettis and Brian Bahr agreed to buy the property for $18.5 million and made a $125,000 down payment on a deal that required them to come up with another $1.25 million within weeks. They began seeking partners and Pattee’s mother, former Colorado Springs City Council member Kathy Loo, sent an email inviting potential investors to a meeting at the castle about a month before the deal was to be completed. / Vol. 2 No. 2 - February 27, 2024 / 12

Land Development


CONTINUATION FROM P. 12 Union Printers Home

About 70 people attended the meeting in late May 2021, including Denver historic preservationist Dana Crawford and Denver hotel developer Walter Isenberg, both involved in the Union Station redevelopment. The Loo family provided the funds to meet the $1.25 million second down payment, and didn’t really get started raising the remaining $17 million until June 5, or 25 days before the required June 30 scheduled deal closing, Pattee says.

“We bought the property to save it; it had been on the market for a while,” Pattee says. She quotes Isenberg during the meeting, saying “it (the castle) is one of the most incredible gems in the country and if it is going to be torn down, I will stand in front of the bulldozer.”

The city of Colorado Springs donated 80 acres

UPH Partners

Ward Berlin, Philanthropist

Tony Bettis, President & CEO, All Pro Capital

Jim Johnson , Former Chairman & CEO, GE Johnson Holdings, Inc

James Loo, Director, Bloom Foundation

Kevin O’Neil, President & CEO, The O’Neil Group

Susan Pattee, Board Chair, Bloom Foundation

Susie Burghart, Philanthropist

13 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest
Access & Activation Memorial Park S. Union Blvd Inter Pikes Peak Ave
THE FRONT PORCH Celebrating the Front Range
dining, shopping
other activities.
project includes a lawn area, a central plaza, four historic buildings and space for
Illustration of the larger plan for the former Union Printers Home property.

Economic Forum


The economics profession lost one of its giants late last year with the passing of Robert Solow, the 1987 Nobel laureate. Solow’s work established the foundations of how economists today think about long-run economic growth.

In Solow’s theory, growth is driven by technological progress. Economists define technological progress broadly, as anything that allows for more to be produced from a given amount of resources. These can be developments from a laboratory, but improvements in management also count.

Solow showed a clever, indirect way to measure technological progress. Data and economic theory can estimate how much additional output we would expect to generate from changes in resources — labor and capital. The difference between this expected change in output and the actual change is attributed to technology. Economists refer to this as “total factor productivity,” or T.F.P. Since it is measured as the growth left over after the effects of changes in resources, T.F.P. became known as the “Solow Residual.”

Estimates of the Solow residual show that the slowdown in U.S. economic growth in the mid-1970s corresponded with a decrease in T.F.P. growth. Measured technological progress continued to be slow through the 1980s, despite the widespread adoption of computers in American business, leading Solow to remark, “We see the computer everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

The resolution of this paradox comes from the work of another luminary of the economics profession who we lost in 2023, Paul David. David showed that new technologies that are broadly used throughout the economy lead to productivity improvements, but only with a long-time lag. His example was electricity; Thomas Edison demonstrated the light bulb in 1879, but the learning and adaptation process that ultimately allowed for the reconfiguration of production to fully take advantage of electric power took decades.

As with electricity, so with computers – the data show an improvement in T.F.P. growth in the mid1990s, which is generally attributed to information and

communication technology. However, the burst of T.F.P growth was relatively short-lived, and the average rate of increase since 2006 has been similar to what it was from 1974-1995.

In the past year, generative artificial intelligence (AI) has captured the public imagination. It still has significant problems to overcome, including a tendency to provide false and biased information; exorbitant energy and water use; and misappropriation of intellectual property. If these can be resolved, we can expect to see the effects in the Solow residual. But history suggests it may take a while.

Dr. Bill Craighead is the program director of the Economic Forum, in the UCCS College of Business. / Vol. 2 No. 2 - February 27, 2024 / 14

Colorado's Next Great Adventure with Space

Maj. Gen., USAF (Ret.), PhD, Chief Executive Officer, Space Foundation


Heather brings a global perspective to Space Foundation, having developed and strengthened partnerships around the world, which cemented her conviction that collaboration is essential for the global space ecosystem to thrive.She is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and has a master of arts and Ph.D. in engineering psychology from the University of Illinois.

The Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber has been named BEST CHAMBER by the Colorado Springs Business Journal.

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March 19 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM Business Lunch: Garden of
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Three local nonprofit organizations are partnering to expand the Bentley Commons affordable housing campus in southeast Colorado Springs. GPR Properties — so named to represent partners Greccio Housing, Partners in Housing and Rocky Mountain Community Land Trust — broke ground Jan. 30. The expansion will add 168 units to the 24 units already on site, built in 2005. The new units include 60 one-bedroom, 105 two-bedroom and 27 three-bedroom apartments and will house renters with 30-60% of Area Median Income (AMI).

GPR Properties has owned Bentley Commons since 2009, when the partners purchased a bankrupt luxury condominium project and converted it into affordable housing units, says Mary Stegner, executive director

of Partners in Housing. “We have always had plans to expand on the property,” which consisted of two apartment buildings and a community center, she said. “Over the years, we bought additional land to the north to increase the property to over seven acres.”

Plans began to firm up over the past few years, Stegner says. What evolved was a funding arrangement for the $65 million project that included federal and state tax credits, construction and permanent loans from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, tax credit backing from U.S. Bank, and support from the Myron Stratton Home, Colorado Springs Housing Authority, city of Colorado Springs and El Paso County.

Along with that, says Nate Clyncke, executive director of Rocky Mountain Community Land Trust, “we were able to secure 28 VASH [Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing] vouchers to support homeless veterans within our community.” The vouchers combine rental assistance with case management and clinical services to support homeless veterans, he says. In that way, the project will impact homelessness in the region, but it also will provide housing for working people such as teachers.

The partnership is constructing six new buildings and converting the community center into a leasing office and maintenance facility, Stegner says. She expects the project to be completed by summer 2025, but leasing could begin on some of the units before then.

She says it took all three agencies pooling their resources and brainpower to make the project work. “I do think that others could look at this model,” she says.

Jeanne Davant is a senior writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest. / Vol. 2 No. 2 - February 27, 2024 / 16
Top: Bentley Commons rendering. Left: City leaders and business partners turned ceremonial shovels of dirt at the Bentley Commons addition on Jan. 30.


Acoalition of business leaders is committed to fixing Colorado’s talent gap, striving to make a strong, homegrown talent pipeline a reality with a development system that is both learner-centered and economically responsive. Launched in October 2023, the Education to Employment Alliance’s (EEA) network already reaches across the state’s 64 counties and represents more than 2,000 employers.

EEA was inspired by five organizations who repeatedly identified workforce development as a top issue among their members, shares Katie Zaback, vice president of policy at Colorado Succeeds. The non-profit partnered with four others — Colorado Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Inclusive Economy, Colorado Technology Association and Colorado Thrives — to form the alliance.

“We were aligned in what we wanted to accomplish and the

fact that we wanted to bring the business voice into the talent conversation in a much more intentional way,” says Zaback.

Facing Reality

According to the most recent Colorado Talent Pipeline report, more than 90% of jobs that pay a wage sufficient to sustain a family require some postsecondary education past a high-school diploma. Yet, in 2021, less than 50% of Colorado high-school students went on to higher education upon graduation — a decline of almost 10 percentage points in just two years. This means employers can’t find qualified workers — and the skills mismatch means 100,000 residents are unemployed despite nearly 200,000 job openings, according to EEA.

The EEA’s first report, Maximizing Human Potential and Economic Mobility for Coloradans, offers a diagnosis

of Colorado’s talent needs. Their recommendations address critical challenges identified by the business community while positioning the state to both produce a reliable stream of skilled workers and increase access to sustainable, secure careers. They also plan to measure progress.

Ed Sealover, vice president of strategic initiatives at the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, says he hopes the alliance will “break down the silos between education, government and business when it comes to workforce needs.”

Path Forward

Key to the alliance’s plans is an upcoming legislative bill that would create talent development summits. Zaback says that one of the gaps identified in the field was a lack of connection between entities. “Our goal is to create regional talent development goals and action plans that we can

17 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest
Economic Development/Business
The Education to Employment Alliance was inspired by five organizations who repeatedly identified workforce development as a top issue among their members.

align so that education entities, workforce entities and economic development entities are all moving in the same direction, trying to address the same challenges.”

Sealover explains the summits will provide an opportunity to “explore the needs of business, the capabilities of school districts, and the understanding of where we are really lacking talent. Because if we put numbers to it where we think we’re lacking it, it could be what we expect, could be different.”

Employers are already looking to the K-12 sector to educate the next generation of their workers, and while all educational institutions are important to these conversations, so are the providers operating in the workforce space, says Zaback. “Oftentimes, they are offering really innovative apprenticeship models or different approaches to course content.”

Employer Role

In exchange, the alliance says employers need to step up and actively participate in bringing about solutions to the talent shortage. This may mean making internal changes to offer careerconnected learning opportunities or updating hiring requirements to acknowledge skills-based learning as a bridge to talent acquisition and economic mobility.

That’s a big deal in areas like construction, which Sealover says will be 50,000 workers short of where it needs to be in Colorado by 2030. Manufacturing and healthcare also need a pipeline of talent, especially those individuals who are not pursuing a four-year college. “These are professions that people can get into a lot more easily, and if they want to go on and move up in those ranks, they can,” says Sealover.

“In five years,” he shares, “we’d love to see less people saying, ‘I can’t find workers,’ and more people saying, ‘well, I’m working with this community college or that school district, and we’re working together to train these specific workers.’”

“I’m excited to see what the future of talent development in Colorado will look like,” says Zaback.

Kim Daly is a staff writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest. / Vol. 2 No. 2 - February 27, 2024 / 18
Colorado Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Strategic Initiatives says Colorado will be 50,000 workers short of construction industry needs by 2030.


Colorado ranked 10th in the nation for the highest number of job vacancies per capita in 2023, with a weekly average of 117,224 openings across the state, according to the fourth quarter workforce and jobs data report from the Colorado Chamber of Commerce and Aspen Technology Labs. Job vacancies in Colorado have decreased by 7.3% since the beginning of 2023, compared with a decline of 8.8% nationwide, according to the report.

“While employers continue to see more stability in the labor market heading into 2024, finding talent is still a critical challenge for Colorado businesses,” Colorado Chamber President and CEO Loren Furman says, in a Jan. 22 release.

The state’s job vacancies dropped 3.5% from the beginning to the end of Q4 2023, according to the report.

Must Read

That compares to a drop of 6.8% in vacancies nationwide.

The last-quarter report provides job market insights for both the quarter and the full year to help businesses, economists and planners better understand the state’s economic landscape. The report also looks at jobs data for major metropolitan areas, including Colorado Springs and Denver.

In Q4, as measured by job openings on Dec. 18, Colorado Springs had 12,145 job openings, the second highest in the state. That number, however, dropped 4% or 471 job postings from those recorded in October.

The Pueblo metro area ranked sixth in job vacancies on Dec. 18, with 2,647 jobs posted, down 3% from October. The Denver-AuroraCentennial metro area topped listings on that date, with 61,408 vacancies listed on Dec. 18, a 5% drop from October.

Statewide, healthcare industries saw the most demand in 2023.

Registered nurse was the top job in total vacancies, with 48,000 jobs posted throughout the year.

Colorado’s median salary for all full-time job postings increased 0.4% over the year but dropped 3.5%, in Q4, from $57,200 to $55,224. Despite the decline, Colorado’s rank jumped from 11th to eighth for highest median salary in Q4.

“Our data-driven insights reveal a market resilience that positions Colorado businesses favorably,” says Aspen Technology Labs President and Founder Mike Woodrow. “As we navigate the challenges of the past few years, this stability becomes a valuable asset for employers, empowering them to make strategic decisions that will uphold their competitiveness.”

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


Crazy, as Usual, invites you to share a conversation between two women — a young executive and a retired CEO — as they meet Fridays at five to share life’s challenges and tame the mental monkey chatter that limits high-achieving women from bringing 100%. Written by local author and community leader, Donna Carlson and available at:

19 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest


Brett Bixler, the owner of Mission Coffee Roasters, has 32 years in the coffee trade. Mission Coffee Roasters coffee has been sold at Whole Foods Markets for 18 years and Bixler has spent 11 years in his roastery in Colorado Springs.

In March 2023, Bixler and a long-term customer and friend, John, developed the concept of the Grinder Hopper Extension to eliminate spills and other challenges associated with filling five-pound coffee bags. “It is such a simple problem, and an even simpler solution,” says Bixler. Bixler took all that history in coffee and found a way to improve the industry.

Much of the coffee trade needs to grind five pounds of coffee at a time; but most commercial coffee grinder top hoppers hold less than five pounds. Using CAD software, after much trial and error, the duo was finally able to devise grinder hoppers that fit coffee grinders used daily in the warehouse at Mission Coffee Roasters. “Once we got a handle on the process, and produced a few working hopper extensions, we knew we had a tool that could help a lot of other coffee companies, roasters and cafes alike,” says Bixler.

Simply put, this tool enables hands-free filling in under 18 seconds, significantly reducing labor, saving time and enhancing wholesale production and profits. They had solved a problem that had plagued the coffee industry for decades.

Originally these tools were for Mission Coffee Roasters’ exclusive use in their wholesale coffeeroasting business. As they came to rely on it everyday, the company realized that other coffee outfits would benefit too. Within days of posting the items online, companies as far away as the Virgin Islands and Hawaii began purchasing the hoppers. Costco stores provide them for customers to use to grind coffee after checkout.

The Grinder Hopper Extension is available for machines made by Ditting, Grindmaster and Bunn. Their products can be purchased directly from them online at: bagging-and-grinding-tools.

The men are working on prototypes for Mahlkonig EK43 and GH2 coffee grinders and hope to have them available soon. The Grinder Hopper Extension for Ditting is now available on Amazon as well.

Kay Rowe is a staff writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.

All brand names and machine/grinder models are the intellectual property of the companies mentioned. / Vol. 2 No. 2 - February 27, 2024 / 20
The Grinder Hopper Extension.


Mt first glance, affordable housing, transportation and climate change may not seem related. But Gov. Jared Polis’s Roadmap to Colorado’s Future: 2026 makes a case for viewing the interrelationships of these three areas and tackling them together, rather than as separate entities.

“We have an opportunity to create a more affordable and livable Colorado for everyone when our state turns 150 in 2026,” Polis said in releasing the document at a press conference Dec. 7 in Lakewood. “Coloradans around the state are calling for reduced housing costs and better transit options, and this roadmap details common sense actions we can take to deliver the results Coloradans deserve while protecting our environment and the resources we rely on.”

In 2022, the governor set a goal of zero net emissions by 2050, when it is estimated that the state’s population will grow to 7.5 million — 1.72 million more people than live here now, according to the State Demography Office.

The roadmap, a wide-ranging document that was informed by conversations about what Coloradans want their state to look like in 2026, contends that housing, transit, climate and equity must be addressed together to achieve that goal, protect the state’s air and water, and grow sustainably while preserving and enhancing Colorado’s unique way of life.

The document plots a course toward continued innovation, strategic planning and growth in six areas, with action steps to achieve each one:

• Saving people money on housing and increasing supply. Action steps include exploring new solutions such as commercial-to-residential conversions,

Roadmap to Colorado’s Future: 2026

accessory dwelling units and 3D printing; expediting new housing, especially near transit and jobs; and developing incentives to affordable housing.

• Streamlining processes to save everyone time and money, such as updating housing regulations and processes

• Strategic growth planning that improves air quality and reduces traffic by looking at development at the local, regional and state levels

• Increasing access to trains, buses and bikes, and saving commuters money and time, increasing transit options and incentivizing housing near transit corridors and commercial centers

• Enhancing the Colorado way of life by protecting open space, water and wildlife and creating safe, livable neighborhoods

• Supporting local businesses, creatives, community revitalization, historic preservation and unique community assets, and integrating essential benefits such as child care and access to food.

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

21 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest
Economic Development
Elevate Your Business Identity, Sophistication & Style Speaks Volumes 719.661.4470 Colorado Springs


Writing doesn’t have to be painful. Many people overcomplicate the process, making it more difficult than it needs to be. Oftentimes, the best writers are the ones who keep their content short, simple and meaningful. Here are a few tricks of the trade that can help any writer hone their skills and connect with their audience on a deeper level.

1). Keep it Short or Long

The length of content should depend on the audience and what they prefer. The current trend is that opinion pieces are shorter, while informational articles are longer. Feel free to mix it up as long as it doesn’t take away from readability.

2). Appeal to Their Interests or Concerns

Being a better writer often means covering areas of interest that are important to the target audience. When people are reading about something of interest that is helpful and valuable to them, they will appreciate both the content and the writer who wrote it.

3). Stop Writing About Yourself

If you’re writing for business, you probably want to talk about your business. But it’s often more beneficial to you to provide personalized solutions for the audience.

4). Say Things in an Interesting Way

Always show personality in writing. Whether it’s jokes in articles or unique buzzwords in blog posts, interesting language can make all the difference. Readers should be able to “hear” you in your writing.

5). Tell Stories

People connect with stories, so don’t be afraid to share personal experiences. No need to use

eloquent words or embellish the facts. Readers appreciate content that is real, raw and relatable.

Note: Content should be shared across multiple platforms, such as social media pages and newsletter broadcasts. This gives the message a “second life” that any avid reader can appreciate.

Today’s writing focuses on building connections, not formal persuasive arguments. Think about it as a written conversation between writer and reader. From articles to blog posts to thank you cards and emails, writing is about forging and maintaining a connection with readers.

Terri Hayes is the President and CEO of The Tri-Lakes 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.

23 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest
Professional Development


Colorado Springs–based live entertainment company Notes Live, Inc. announced a definitive merger agreement with Napa–based premium wine producer Fresh Vine Wine, Inc. in a January 29 announcement. The agreement is anticipated to close in June 2024, upon stakeholder agreement and other closing conditions.

Notes Live, Inc., the live music and entertainment venue developer founded by JW Roth, has established three luxury venues across Colorado Springs and Gainesville, Georgia. In August 2024, this will expand to include the Sunset Amphitheater, a $60-million project aimed at enhancing the entertainment industry of Colorado Springs. Additional developments in two Oklahoma cities are also in the works. Roth, a fifth-generation Colorado native, will assume the

role of CEO and chairman of the soon-to-be-minted Notes Live Holdings, Inc.

“The Notes Live business plan combines a unique financing strategy that includes public participation that results in a significant economic boost to communities where Notes Live venues will operate,” says Mike Pruitt, chairman and CEO of Fresh Vine. “Community leaders from across the U.S. are teaming up with Notes Live to provide the necessary public contributions for infrastructure because they see the positive impact that a Notes Live entertainment campus will bring to their communities.”

The merger will be an all-stock transaction intended to allocate percentages of the combined company to existing Fresh Vine and Notes Live shareholders. Percentages will be relative based

on the current valuations of the individual companies. Per the company release, Notes Live is being valued at $350 million, plus an additional $50 million in gross proceeds from the ongoing equity offering of Notes Live. Fresh Vine is being valued at $18 million.

Upon announcing the merger, Roth says, “On behalf of our team here at Notes Live, we want to thank Mike Pruitt and his team at Fresh Vine for their trust in our vision to build a one-of-a-kind live entertainment and hospitality company. Mike and his team join a chorus of world-class partners in the Notes Live family.”

Lucy Richardson is a copyeditor for Colorado Media Group and a recent graduate of the University of Denver.

25 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest
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Lindsey Ganzer, DMV, is CEO of North Springs Veterinary Referral Center in Colorado Springs. The recently opened North Springs VRC already employs 110 people. However, the hospital is one of only two locally owned ER clinics in Colorado Springs, and the only multispecialty animal hospital.

After graduation in 2012, Ganzer worked for five years in Georgia before moving to Colorado. She began work at a privately owned animal emergency and specialty hospital in Colorado Springs. But, when the hospital was sold to a corporation, Ganzer says, she discovered what was happening to the profession she loves.

“Nearly 75% of emergency animal hospitals and specialty clinics are [now] owned by corporations,”* says Ganzer. “And consumers are often fooled by these private-equity firms, keeping the same names.”

Profit is the main driver for these takeovers across the United States, Ganzer believes. And the numbers are staggering — in 2022, Americans spent $136.8 billion on their pets, with almost $36 billion in vet/ER services. In 2023, the estimate is $143.6 billion with $37 billion in vet/ ER services.**

Her main concern is that many of these companies have no connection to animals, animal

welfare or the veterinary world. “As a veterinarian, our goal is to take care of the patient,” notes Ganzer. “Corporations are looking at the bottom line, period.”

It’s not just vets who are feeling pressure from these corporately run clinics, according to Ganzer. Colorado just recently became a state that requires a degree for vet techs.

“Our techs are our nurses,” she explains. “But now there is more burden on people entering this industry to pay for a degree, for a salary that may be close to [that of] a fast food position. Corporationowned clinics are also pushing down the pay of techs.”

Building a vet hospital and specialty practice was a daunting task, notes Ganzer. But she had help from two Colorado Springs natives of SRT Development. Ganzer says that SRT collaborated with her to craft the building to exact specifications, and explains, “They rent it back to us and we are all now

working to help other practices remain locally owned.”

“Our overhead may be higher and our bottom line lower, but we save animals and give dignity back to those who do the saving,” ends Ganzer.

Pam Bales is a senior writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.

*Chicago-based animal health firm Brakke Consulting

**APPA American Pet Products Association

27 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest
Ganzer says SRT Development’s Paul Rubley and Darren Sharp collaborated with her and her partner Matt Hubbell to build the facility to exact specifications.


Lauren Bogert is five months into operating the first cat café in Colorado Springs; business is booming and her patrons couldn’t be more pleased. The Biscuit Factory Cat Lounge & Adoption Center was opened by Bogert on the city’s west side last October, thanks to a partnership with nonprofit rescue Happy Cats Haven.

The cat café trend started in Taiwan in the late ’90s before expanding to Japan and the rest of the world. Colorado previously only boasted these establishments in Boulder, Denver and Loveland. Bogert’s cost of admission is $11, which includes an hour to socialize with adoptable cats while sipping tea, coffee, or soda of choice in a café atmosphere.

Bogert, with a background in human resources and database administration, had grown accustomed to visiting a similar café in Charleston, S.C. Upon moving to Colorado four years ago, she told her husband, “If I’m going to make this my home, I’m going to open up a cat café here.”

The doors opened in Old Colorado City last October, and earlier this month she relocated to 12 S. 25th St. There, cat lovers and potential adopters are greeted by up to 15 sociable cats, hand-picked by Happy Cats Haven staff; all friendly and ready for permanent homes. The resident cats are all over five months of age.

Adoptions and associated costs are handled separately through Happy Cats Haven, and Bogert says some people are surprised to learn The Biscuit Factory charges an admission fee. It is a separate business providing an experience, and the cost of admission covers rent, restocking, payroll, and other requirements for the cats in her care.

The establishment features plenty of hideaways for the feline occupants — brick walls, high ceilings, and a loft. It provides a more intimate experience for those looking to adopt than what a cat lover might find at a rescue facility.

“Rescues don’t have the capacity to offer this kind of experience, where the cats know that this is their home. They’re more comfortable. They’re not in cages,” Bogert explains. Bogert limits

occupancy in her space to prevent the cats from feeling overwhelmed by visitors.

Keri Kahn is a staff writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest. / Vol. 2 No. 2 - February 27, 2024 / 28
Small Business Spotlight
RESERVATIONS are preferred and can be made online: BISCUITFACTORYCAT.COM
The Biscuit Factory owner, Lauren Bogert, snuggles up with Catrick Swayze, whom she refers to as the cat ambassador.


Phil Long Dealerships announced the passing of Gerald “Jay” Cimino, chairman of its board of trustees. The recently retired president and CEO, Cimino was 87 when he died on Feb 24, at his home in Colorado Springs.

Cimino was a prominent figure in Colorado, considered a trailblazer in the automotive industry who earned numerous manufacturer and industry accolades for his dealerships’ sales and service. He joined founder Phil Long in 1975 as a partner and general manager of a single Ford dealership in Colorado Springs, and played a pivotal role in transforming the company into the largest privately held automotive group in Colorado. He served the company for 49 years.

Kevin Shaughnessy, president and CEO since

Cimino’s retirement, says, “Jay was a larger-than-life figure who brought his remarkable passion, experience and vision in growing Phil Long Dealerships to be among the most respected and recognized brands in the automotive industry.”

Established in 1945, the company commemorates 79 years of serving Colorado through partnerships and philanthropic endeavors. The company operates 15 new-vehicle dealerships in Colorado: Denver, Glenwood Springs, Colorado Springs, Trinidad and Raton, New Mexico.

By popular demand, Colorado Media Group will add print copies of the Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest to accompany our news-packed offerings via radio/podcast, digital, web, and new video programming (coming soon to

Print editions can be requested online or picked up at area distribution points throughout the region and through your membership organizations, i.e., Chambers of Commerce, EDC offices, and the BBB.

29 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest
In Memoriam
REGISTER HERE The Digest in Print! Beginning


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31 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest Business


For the past five years, The University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) has been at the forefront of developing the cybersecurity ecosystem in the Pikes Peak region. The university has been the statewide leader in opening up a workforce pipeline, collaborating with other educational institutions and conducting research to advance knowledge in the field.

This crucial work has been supported by state funding. Due to the foresight of then-Gov. John Hickenlooper and state legislators, SB18-086 allocated funding to build cybersecurity in Colorado. This included annual support to UCCS, Chancellor Jennifer Sobanet says.

The original three-year allocation was renewed for three more years, but that funding is expiring this year. Sobanet and Gretchen Bliss, UCCS director of cybersecurity programs, say it is crucial for the funding to be extended. Bliss and Sobanet both testified before the legislature’s Joint Business Committee, which voted unanimously in favor of continuing the funding for three years. The committee referred the matter for approval to the Joint Budget Committee, which will vote in mid-March.

The need is great, according to Sobanet. “We have 22,000 open jobs in Colorado in cybersecurity and 660,000 across the United States,” she says.

Colorado is now fifth in the nation in cybersecurity employment — one indication of the progress the state has made in creating the cybersecurity ecosystem, with UCCS at the forefront, Sobanet says. “We have taken that $5.1 million that they give to us per year for all of higher education and we have transformed it into $72 million with matching funds,” she says.

Assistant Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications Chris Valentine says UCCS has deployed its $2.8 million annual share to:

• Create more than 1,700 student scholarships worth almost $3.9 million

• Hire 38 faculty and staff

• Award 2,964 cybersecurity degrees and certificates

• Place 138 students in internships

• Engage with more than 130 companies and organizations (government, military and community)

• Host 65 cyber events since 2022, attended by more than 2,700 people, including students, as well as representatives of the government, the military and industry

33 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest Cybersecurity

Bliss led the development of cybersecurity courses across five colleges within the university and helped five other institutions of higher education across the state expand their cyber programming, Sobanet says. “We are asking our communities and our employers what they need,” she says. “We’re translating that into our programs and our research, and our cocurricular programs, and we are bringing people in, whether it’s K-12, transfer students from Pikes Peak State College, or adults who need graduate programs. To me, it’s higher education at its finest.”

Bliss adds, “It’s a multidimensional approach, and we try to find unique ways for industry to engage our students. We reach out across the community to bring industry into the university to meet our students, help them get into the workforce and learn about what it is to ‘do cyber.’ We collaborate with organizations on both paid and unpaid internships. We actually have quite a few of our cyber students that are now in the cyber industry.”

One ongoing event is Cyber First Fridays, which is held in the UCCS building on North Nevada Avenue, where the National Cybersecurity Center and the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center also are located. Both organizations partner with UCCS, and these events bring in more than 100 people each month, including representatives of industry, government and the military, Bliss explains.

Continuation of the state funding will enable UCCS to launch Phase 2 of the cybersecurity development program, which will focus on outreach to school systems, teacher

training, concurrent enrollment, cyber certifications and creation of more internships and industry partnerships.

“After the first three years, we did a lot of fact-finding,” Bliss says. “We found that we need to amplify the K-12 pathway. Also, we’ve got a whole bunch of new degrees, but what’s a little harder is that hands-on piece and those industry certificates.”

In the research arena, “there’s a lot of hard problems in cyber that need to be solved,” Bliss says. “We have amazing faculty in the cybersecurity part of computer science. But, we also have faculty that are working on cybersecurity research in our College of Public Service, where cyber fits in with law enforcement and the public sector.”

In Phase 2, UCCS will continue to develop industry and university partners to collaborate on research holistically across the cyber spectrum.

“Our research right here can generate new companies and new economic development here, in Colorado Springs and across southern Colorado,” Sobanet says. She urges citizens to contact their legislators and tell them they support funding to continue these efforts. “Let’s not squander our early leadership position in this burgeoning industry,” she says.

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

Inspirational IQ

One of the most important things for any leader is to never let anyone else define who you are. And you define who you are. I never think of myself as being a woman CEO of this company. I think of myself as a steward of a great institution.
— Ginni Rometty, former CEO of IBM
Technology will never replace great teachers but technology in the hands of great teachers is transformational.
— George Couras, author
We must never be afraid to go too far, for success lies just beyond.
— Marcel Proust / Vol. 2 No. 2 - February 27, 2024 / 34

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Pueblo’s Meals on Wheels program delivers as many as 100,000 meals to local people in need of assistance annually. This program recruits volunteers year-round, relying on them to support transportation, food services and community outreach.

The Meals on Wheels program came to Pueblo in 1971. The Senior Resource Development Agency (SRDA) hosts this program along with many other services to help the elderly community. No payment is required to receive services, although contribution is always accepted. John Jakeman, director of Nutrition Services says, “None of these programs are income based, there is no charge to the client.”

Recipients are 60 years of age or older who are homebound, unable to prepare a meal, don’t drive and have no one to cook for them. Meals follow a low-sodium, high-fiber diet plan designed to provide proper nutrition while also prioritizing flavor and variety. Approximately 430 meals per day are made at the SRDA location; the program offers one meal per day, five days per week. This service is also an opportunity for volunteers to check in with elderly residents who may not regularly interact with the local community.

For people who do not qualify for home-delivered meals, SRDA offers a congregate meal program. Local community sites provide nutritious meals to people in need of support

who are not homebound. There are currently 10 sites throughout Colorado — three are located in Pueblo County — and the program offers transportation to and from the sites. SRDA is always looking to connect with local churches and community groups to set up additional congregate meal sites.

Volunteers account for approximately 95% of meals delivered and most routes take about one hour; SRDA offers mileage reimbursement of 60 cents per mile. Additionally, the SRDA wants to expand these programs into more areas, including Pueblo West. “We are looking for volunteers who live in the community to help identify people who may be eligible for these programs as well as getting the word about programs offered by the SRDA,” Jakeman says.

“It is my intention that we will be recognized in the city, and soon in the state, then hopefully the country as one of the premier title three food service programs!” Jakeman says.

Tiffany Underwood is a staff writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest. / Vol. 2 No. 2 - February 27, 2024 / 36
FOR MORE INFORMATION on the program and volunteering please visit or call: PPBEA.ORG/BUSINESS/ADVISORIES 719-543-0100
[Pueblo] Local SRDA volunteers deliver valentines to senior community members.

Future Workforce


Businesses are invited to join the summer internship program sponsored by the Pikes Peak Business & Education Alliance. Participating businesses will host a high school student or students for 60-hour internships in any of the following areas: computer science and cybersecurity, culinary and hospitality, business occupations and skilled trades.

Bob Gemignani, PPBEA director, says the organization is recruiting business partners for the program through midApril. He hopes to sign up 50 businesses that will offer up to 150 student internship openings.

“The program is very structured for our business partners and our students,” he says.

The alliance works with participating businesses through its employer concierge service to create a rigorous internship including deliverables, training and experiences the students will have.

“We help them codify that and artifact it in our website,” Gemignani says. Students then apply for potential internships in the career areas that interest them. “We have four interviewing days that are done via web conferencing in May,” he says. These are panel interviews with host employers. Individual employers then follow up with

the student applicants.

“The internship relationship is just like competitive employment,” Gemignani says. “We encourage the business partner to establish minimum requirements.” For example, an IT company might want to ensure that a student applicant has completed basic IT coursework or a micro-certificate.

The PPBEA assists in prescreening applicants.

Students also are required to complete a soft skills training program, Professionalism 101, which they can take online via the PPBEA website. This course covers workplace basics such as attendance, dress code, communication, problem solving and conflict resolution.

The Business & Education Alliance, an organization formed to connect K-12 students and the world of work, started an internship program five years ago but found that many students had difficulty in working around class schedules or finding transportation. The summer

internship program was launched during 2022 to address those barriers.

“Last summer, we had 35 employers who provided 100 internships in multiple career clusters,” Gemignani says. Since its inception, the program has placed more than 200 students in internships, and about 30% have been hired by their employers. “These internships are beneficial and just critical to everybody,” he says.

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


Businesses interested in learning more can email:


37 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest


From Feb. 21-23, emerging and experienced leaders nationwide explored themes of human understanding at the 31st annual National Character and Leadership Symposium (NCLS). Hosted at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA), this annual, cadet-led event attracted over 6,500 participants from the USAFA as well as 110 visiting universities and the wider community, all seeking to embrace honorable living and effective leadership.

Academy Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark, who opened the symposium, states, “For the last 31 years, NCLS has served as an amazing opportunity for fresh perspectives and elevated conversations about what it truly means to be a leader of character.”

Told through their distinguished life stories as scholars, military leaders, corporate executives and world-class athletes, more than 40 diverse speakers shared their perspectives, including:

• 2nd Lt. Madison Marsh, 2023 Academy graduate and Miss America

• Rosalyn Durant, ESPN executive vice president, programming and acquisitions

• Dr. Kjell Lindgren, NASA astronaut

• Missy Franklin Johnson, Olympic swimmer

• The crew of the Polaris Dawn commercial space mission

• Timothy Alexander, speaker, writer and coach

• U.S. Space Force Col. Bree Fram, co-editor of, “With Honor and Integrity: Transgender Troops in Their Own Words”

• Bryan Stevenson, executive director, Equal Justice Initiative Cadet Lt. Col. Rachel Parillo, this year’s event director, highlights its community value. “When the public comes, they not only have the opportunity to listen to the speakers, they also have the opportunity to interact with cadets as well as all the different visiting students we have…it’s a big conglomeration of networking in the best ways possible,” says Parillo.

Embracing the 2024 theme, “Valuing Human Conditions, Cultures, and Societies,” sessions focused on the common experiences, emotions and challenges that humans share,

emphasizing how both commonalities and varying perspectives are critical to effective teams.

The symposium is “such a vital piece in shaping the new officers of today, says Parillo. “It’s having the ability to look at different people and see their stories and their challenges and how they overcame it, and put it into our own lives.”

This event is sponsored by the USAFA’s Center for Character and Leadership Development which supports the Academy’s goal of developing leaders of character in service to the nation. It is the institution’s primary integrator of character and leadership development.

Kim Daly is a staff writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest. / Vol. 2 No. 2 - February 27, 2024 / 38
One of the headliners at this year’s event is Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.


The Theatre of Dreams, Colorado’s world-famous magic venue, opened in April of 2003 in Castle Rock. The owners, Joe Givan and Carol Massie, are known globally as the “Dream Masterz Theatrical Illusion Team.” Their sold-out performances feature world-class magicians, mind readers, ventriloquists, comedy shows and a talented variety of artists from around the globe.

The venue is available for celebrations of any kind, including public shows, holiday parties, team-building events and private gatherings. Givan and Massie also offer a Wizard Camp for all ages, where one can learn magic using everyday items. Their newest show is “The Music and Magic Zone,” where music and magic collide.

Givan has designed custom illusions for major corporations including IBM, Xerox, Apple, AT&T and Pepsi. His creativity has been sought by performers like David Copperfield, David Blaine, Guns & Roses and Alice Cooper. He consults for magicians worldwide and has recently aided the development of the entertainment concept of escape rooms.

Givan’s journey began when he received a magic kit at age four, progressing until he became a renowned creator of original illusions. He has received honors including the World Championship of Close-up Magic title of 1988 and the Gold Cups International Award of Excellence from the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

Massie was a college cheerleader and a Miss Ohio contestant when a magician asked her to be his assistant. She agreed, and soon Massie diverged from her career path via a three-month magical entertainment position on a cruise line. Her temporary post blossomed into five years of employment on cruise ships and a lifelong career in magic entertainment.

In 1991, Givan and Massie met performing separate acts at Magic Island in Houston, and they became good friends. Their romantic and entrepreneurial partnerships began while Givan and Massie performed in Colorado

and Atlantic City, respectively. Givan came to Colorado to conceive a storyline production called the “Dream Masterz Theatrical Illusion Show.” They took Dream Masterz on the road for seven years across the U.S., with occasional TV and convention appearances in Europe, Canada and Japan before landing back home in Castle Rock, CO.

Kay Rowe is a staff writer for the SoCo Business Forum & Digest.

39 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest Arts & Entertainment
Castle Rock is home to Theatre of Dreams, the brain child of Carol Massie and Joe Givan, and hosts a variety of artists regularly. Theater of Dreams



In this era of growth for the Pikes Peak region, attracting and retaining top talent is a hot topic for both businesses and economic leaders.

Quality of life contributors are magnetic for job seekers and companies; a vibrant cultural scene helps drive high quality of life. The Pikes Peak region’s rich arts, culture and entertainment options are important for attracting tourists, keeping residents and turning talented tourists into talented residents!

“Tourism industry leader Maura Gast said it best — when you build a place people want to visit, you build a place people want to live, work — and where business has to be,” says Alexea Veneracion, director of communications at VisitCOS. “Today’s visitor can easily become tomorrow’s talent.”

Cultural events and venues hold a special place in the hearts of the talent already here, according to Arts and Economic Prosperity 6, a recent study of the region’s creative nonprofits. Of the more than 800 audience members surveyed:

• 79% said that “this venue or facility is an important pillar for me within my community.”

• 87% said “this activity or venue is inspiring a sense of pride in this neighborhood or community.”

Regional leaders like VisitCOS and the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC are working alongside us at the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region to leverage the connective

power of the arts. The Chamber’s Connect Colorado Springs program sells the region to potential and/ or new-to-market job candidates, including concierge tours focused on local arts and culture. VisitCOS helps us champion the region as a cultural destination in a variety of ways, including promoting the region’s centerpiece arts and entertainment website run by the Cultural Office,

In 2023, received 2,892 event listings from 557 different venues — and 15,939 clicks of “Buy Tickets” links on event listings — illustrating the direct economic impact of the site. Our user survey found that 82% attended an event they otherwise would not have, and 77% discovered a new event or organization, because of Peak Radar. These partners are working

together because the arts make communities authentic, memorable and attractive.

The Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region (a.k.a. COPPeR) is the nonprofit local arts agency that serves the City of Colorado Springs and the greater Pikes Peak region (El Paso and Teller Counties).


about the work of the Cultural Office at: CULTURALOFFICE.ORG / Vol. 2 No. 2 - February 27, 2024 / 40
& Entertainment
Surface Gallery’s February 2024 exhibition, “Five.” The group show is made up of contemporary works by five Colorado artists. From left to right: Jes Moran, Tara KelleyCruz, Valerie Lloyd, Becca Day, and Diane Reeves.

Thank you to each and every advertiser listed herein.

5Star Bank

Advanced Printing & Graphics

Bank of Colorado

Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado

Boot Barn Hall

Bourbon Brothers Smokehouse & Tavern

Business Digest Weekly Radio

Colorado Small Business Development Center

Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC

Colorado Springs Hispanic Chamber/El Concilio

Financial Talent Group

Flying Horse Realty

Garden of the Gods Resort

KKTV 11News


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

Michelle Bobart/Guaranteed Rate

Notes Live

NORTH Magazine

Pikes Peak Air Show

Salem Media

Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce

Sunset Amphitheater

41 / Southern Colorado Business Forum & Digest Advertiser Index / In Alphabetical Order February 27, 2024
AUGUST 17 & 18 - 2024 | Tickets:

April 29 - May 3,


2024 Pikes Peak Region Small Business Week Award Nominations Are Open!

To qualify for the awards, businesses must be for-profit and must operate in or service El Paso, Teller, Fremont and/or Pueblo County Colorado.

Nominate your favorite business in the following categories:


A person will qualify for nomination if they:

• Are majority owner/operator or bear principal responsibility for operating a small business with at least a two-year track record

• Have served in the U.S. Armed Forces


A business will qualify for nomination if it is:

• A family-owned and operated business which has been passed on from one generation to the next OR has multiple generations of family members working as employees

• Majority-owned by a member of the family

• The business has at least a 10-year track record


A person will qualify for nomination if they:


A person will qualify for nomination if they:

• Have fulfilled a commitment to the advancement of small business opportunities for business owners

• Nominees may or may not be small business owners


A person will qualify for nomination if they:

• Are majority owner and operator or bear principal responsibility for operating a small business with at least a one-year track record

• Have not yet reached the age of 35 by the date of nomination

• Are majority owner/operator or bear principal responsibility for operating a small business with at least a three-year track record

Nominations must be received by close of business March 19, 2024. Visit for more information and to submit your nominations.

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