Colorado Springs Business Group Pushes Lawmakers for Military Procurement

The Colorado Legislature may continue funding to help businesses compete for government contracts

March 19--If nearly 100 Colorado Springs business owners and managers get their way, the Colorado Legislature will do the following this year: get the ball rolling on an assessment of the state's military presence and defense-industry opportunities, and continue funding for a Springs-based center that helps businesses compete for government contracts.

"Both of these bills are key to our relationship with the Pentagon and are an outward indication of our support of the Department of Defense," said Joe Raso, CEO of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, which teamed with Leadership Pikes Peak to host a series of meetings with the Springs business community, Gov. John Hickenlooper and other state government and legislative officials in Denver last week.

The group urged legislators to approve Senate Bill 157, which would require the Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to hire a contractor by Oct. 1 to assess the state's strengths as the U.S. Department of Defense cuts spending over the next decade. The legislation was introduced Monday and sponsored by Senate President Morgan Carroll, D-Denver, Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, and state Rep. Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs.

The military assessment is to be completed by April 15, 2015, for use "as a tool for demonstrating to policymakers how military mission and defense industry retention and expansion and defense spending and investment in Colorado best serves the Department of Defense," according to the bill. The assessment also will measure the statewide economic impact of all military installations and how they stack up against criteria used to determine which installations were shut down in the last round of base closings in 2005.

The study would help Colorado catch up with 35 states that have hired outside representation to prepare for another round of base closings that is expected by 2017 to cope with $900 billion in defense budget cuts over the next 10 years.

The daylong series of meetings also included a pitch for House Bill 1016, sponsored by Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, which would continue state funding for the Procurement Technical Assistance Center. The center is headquartered in Colorado Springs and operates three other offices in the Denver area to help prepare businesses to compete for government contracts. It opened in 2009 and has a staff of eight who travel around the state to meet with businesses that want to bid for government contracts.

The procurement center, operated by a nonprofit board, helped nearly 3,000 businesses employing 53,000 statewide win $936 million in contracts last year from local, state and federal government agencies. That was a 28 percent increase from the previous year.

The center's nearly $800,000 annual budget is split between a federal grant and state funding, half of which must come from cash and in-kind contributions from defense contractors, banks and others.

Hickenlooper spoke to the group about updating the state's economic development blueprint, Secretary of State Scott Gessler discussed reductions he has made in corporate filing fees and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton talked about consolidating the state's debt to get better interest rates. Representatives from the Attorney General's office discussed legislation on telecommunications deregulation, taxing online sales, lawsuit reforms and business policies on marijuana use by employees.

Copyright 2014 - The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)