Budget sequestration – our view

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A July 13 meeting of the Colorado Space Coalition (CSC), a Chamber affiliate, called to light an important issue facing Colorado in the coming months: sequestration.

According to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Budget, “A budget sequester is when money that would otherwise be spent under current law is held back and is used instead for deficit reduction.”

While that can seem on the surface like a way to begin addressing the national deficit, the problem is that, when the alternative is devastating and not strategic, it’s akin to playing with fire.

This issue is of particular concern to Colorado because the Budget Reduction Act of 2011, which includes the sequester stipulation, will cut $55 billion from national defense spending starting in January 2013. Those cuts are in addition to the $486 billion in cuts that have already been leveled at the aerospace and defense sector. Aerospace companies have already started reacting to those cuts by freezing or reducing research and development, hiring, and investments in equipment and facilities.

The U.S. Chamber reports that, “the Bipartisan Policy Center estimated in a recent report that sequestration would result in the loss of about one million jobs in 2013 and 2014 and a half a percent cut to America’s already meager economic growth.” In Colorado, according to the Colorado Space Foundation, the cuts could mean a loss of 17,000 defense-related jobs.

While we believe strongly that steps must be taken to address the federal deficit, legislators must address the deficit by weighing the impact of cuts and by making decisions that are best for our country and our economy.

The aerospace and defense industry generates $5.2 billion in revenue in our state and accounts for 81,667 direct and indirect employees. Colorado has the second-largest aerospace economy in the nation and it ranks first in the nation for private, high-paying aerospace job with a total annual payroll of $2.8 billion. Those jobs are an important asset to our state.

It is also important to note that the aerospace industry contributes to the economy and to business in a variety of ways, from climate and weather research to satellite communication and mobile technology. The innovation that happens as a result of aerospace research and development impacts our daily lives in numerous ways. A loss of funding of this magnitude could create a ripple effect that has consequences far beyond the industry.

We invite you to learn more about sequestration and stay abreast of the news that has the potential to impact our state and national economies in a profound way. The Aerospace Industries Association has launched an initiative, Second to None, to educate the public about this issue as well as the far-reaching work of the aerospace industry.

As a Chamber, we will continue to push for solutions to the national deficit, but those solutions must look at the economic impacts of these decisions and ensure we are not doing more harm than good with the solution.


College football is about much more than fun

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Toward the end of each summer, thousands of college football fans descend on Denver to cheer on the Colorado State University Rams and the University of Colorado Buffaloes as they battle it out during the Rocky Mountain Showdown.

This annual football game was moved to Denver in 1998 to increase the potential number of attendees as well as to grow awareness about the importance of higher education in Colorado. In 2009, both universities agreed to extend the Showdown until 2020, with all games being played at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium through 2019.

This game is a great reminder of the importance of higher education and the value it brings to our community and our economy. Some say football is one of the best marketing tools our colleges and universities have today.

Our state’s higher education institutions have done us proud.

The University of Colorado at Boulder is buzzing with developments and economic activity. In FY2011, the University of Colorado secured more than $793 million in research funding. The school conferred 5,897 degrees in May 2011.

The school is unique in its numerous partnerships with federal labs – which include collaborations with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

The Business Research Division of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder announced in May that the University of Colorado had an economic impact of $5.3 billion for Colorado in 2011.

Colorado State University is home to one of the top veterinary schools in the country. Last year, CSU awarded degrees to 6,173 graduates and, this year, it attracted more than $300 million in research funding.

CSU and its more than 87,000 Colorado-based alumni account for more than $4.1 billion in household income, representing 3.1 percent of Colorado’s total household income.

CSU is currently in the process of deciding whether or not to build a new football stadium right in the heart of the Fort Collins campus, as opposed to the Hughes Stadium current location four miles west of the school. The stadium is estimated to cost $246 million to build and would be funded privately, and the University is seeking feedback on this proposal. You can voice your opinion about a new CSU stadium by participating in this survey.

No matter how you look at it, these institutions are critical to our state and its future.

Finally, I must take this opportunity to thank Robert Blankenship, our Chief Operating Officer, for his 12 years of service to our organization. He leaves us this week to join the team at Mile High United Way as COO there. That organization is another one committed to education, and we look forward to working with Robert in his new role there. Congratulations, Robert! We will miss you and wish you the very best.


A ‘thank you’ for our independence

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The Independence Day holiday is a perfect opportunity to stop and reflect on, and be thankful for, our incredible country and its history. With the recent wildfires here in Colorado, I know many of us are keenly aware of how much we value home and community, and it has been a reminder how the community comes together in times of crisis and need.

The Waldo Canyon fire has encroached on the U.S. Air Force Academy campus, which is not only one of Colorado’s most recognizable landmarks, but the training ground for so many young men and women who have dedicated years of their lives in service to their country; in service to us – Americans.

Currently, there are more than 35,000 Coloradans in active duty in the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy and more than 12,000 serving in the Reserves and National Guard. Many Coloradans have also paid the ultimate price with their lives: More than 6,000 Colorado military personnel have died in service since the Colorado Guard was mobilized in 1898 for the Spanish American War (source). A permanent memorial in their honor, the Colorado Freedom Memorial, is currently under construction in Aurora, Colo. and will open on Memorial Day 2013.

Next week, we will host a traveling memorial exhibit here at the Chamber building. July 9-13, we will open our doors to the public for a viewing of the Remembering Our Fallen exhibit; photos of service men and women who have lost their lives since Sept. 11, 2001. For hours and information, visit www.denverchamber.org/remembering.

In August, the Colorado Yellow Ribbon Event will help welcome home troops and honor those still serving with a memorial service, parade and veterans assistance fair.

The Chamber and its affiliates and partners offer ongoing services to veterans, including the Boots to Suits program, which helps veterans transition into the civilian workforce, and a business plan program through the Chamber’s Denver Metro Small Business Development Center. For more details on those programs and others, visit www.denverchamber.org/Page/veteransinfo.

To all veterans and their families, we say a sincere “thank you.” Those words are not enough to convey our gratitude and our admiration.

Happy Independence Day, all. Please stay safe and enjoy the celebrations of freedom and community on July 4.


Fighting fire with fire

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With a number of fires having burned in Colorado, we are all looking for ways to help. Thousands of people have been displaced, while hundreds of others have lost their homes.

We as a state are doing all that we can, in the public and private sectors, to assist those affected. Colorado’s hearts and thoughts are with our neighbors, family and friends who are struggling with this challenge.

If you want to help, you can make a donation the Red Cross disaster relief fund here, or by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS any time or 303-722-7474 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. More information can be found at www.helpcoloradonow.org about supplies and funding needed to help firefighters and those affected by the fires.

American Red Cross area spokeswoman Patricia Demchak Billinger said on Wednesday that businesses may contact the Red Cross directly to learn what specific needs may be.

“Another important thing you can do to contribute is to be prepared yourself, so if a disaster did strike in your community, you are able to recover and be resilient so the people who are affected have jobs to return back to,” she said.

You can do that by becoming a Ready Rating member with the Red Cross. The program provides a plan for businesses to implement in order to withstand any disaster.

Meanwhile, Colorado’s tourism officials are working to communicate that many of the attractions that make our state so beautiful are still open for business.

Colorado is a place to ride your bike, climb a rock or tour a number of stellar breweries. Lace up your hiking boots or buckle on your rafting life vest and encourage your friends from near and far to join you.

Resort communities like Vail are reportedly pacing well ahead of the same time last year, and tourism officials say people are anxious to come to the Centennial State. Those numbers can only help us to match the visitor rates we saw last year.

Longwoods International recently issued its annual survey of Colorado travelers that showed our state claimed 2.7 percent of the U.S. travel market in 2011. That equates to a 0.1 percent rise in tourism for Colorado, bringing in about $450 million in private sector spending at $40 million to state coffers.

Nearly 58 million travelers flocked to our state last year, spending $600 million more than they did a year earlier, adding oomph to a record $10.76 billion in total visitor spending for 2011. The City of Denver saw its best year ever for tourism, with 13.2 overnight visitors – a 4 percent increase over 2010.

Up to this point, according to Al White, head of the Colorado Tourism Office, businesses have been reporting double-digit increases in reservations.

The Colorado Springs Business Journal reported on Tuesday that destinations in the Pikes Peak Region – home of the Waldo Canyon Fire – are encouraging concerned tourists to keep their plans to travel to the area.

“The message we are giving is, yes, there are attractions closed, but there are others that are open,” Michele Carvell of Pikes Peak Country Attractions told the paper. “We are encouraging people not to abandon their plans to visit in our area.”

We all must do what we can to contribute to the battle and recovery efforts of these fires – and to continue to promote our state as a wonderful place to visit. Travelers can find wildfire updates and travel information here.