Friday, June 16, 2006

Hathaway's close to turning final page

Hathaway's Smoke Shop & Magazine Store, which traces its downtown Colorado Springs roots to 1895, is running a "going out of business" sale and presumably will soon write an ending to its 111-year story.

Customers and others who want to say goodbye to the downtown landmark will get a chance from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday at Jose Muldoon's, a popular downtown restaurant and Hathaway's neighbor at 222 N. Tejon St, according to a sign in the store's front window.

Another sign lists the building for sale, but a sales contract on the building at 216 N. Tejon St. was signed last month, said Kim Harvey of Re/Max Properties Inc., listing agent for the property.

Paul Paquette, manager of PLZ Enterprises LLC, which has owned the Hathaway's building since 2000, declined Friday to comment on the closing.

Proposed tax cut could affect North Nevada retail

It's still uncertain whether tax-cut measures proposed by El Paso County Commissioner Douglas Bruce will make it to the November ballot.

Colorado Springs is appealing a court ruling that clears the way for the measures to go on the ballot, but is preparing to put the measures before voters, anyway.

In the meantime, members of the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority are keeping a close watch. Bruce is seeking to phase out the city's property tax, and cut its sales tax rate. A sales tax rate reduction -- to 1.75 percent from 2 percent -- would potentially cut the amount of tax revenue to be generated at a proposed Costco- and Lowes-anchored retail center that will be a major component of the North Nevada Avenue redevelopment project.

The corridor, between Austin Bluffs Parkway and Interstate 25, was declared an urban renewal site in late 2004. Fewer sales tax dollars could mean less money to make improvements along North Nevada, which Costco and other retailers will be counting on as they plan to locate in the shopping center. Urban Renewal Authority officials said this week they're wondering what effect the measures -- if passed -- will have.

Urban meets suburban in Briargate

Lofts in Briargate? What's next -- a strip shopping center in downtown Colorado Springs? A developer is touting a plan to construct what it's calling the Lofts at Briargate on the northeast corner of Research Parkway and Telstar Drive in north side Briargate. The master-planned, suburban community is probably the last place you'd expect to find an urban staple such as lofts. Actually, while developer Mountain View Homes describes its project as lofts, its Web site also refers to the units as residential condominiums. Mountain View says it's an affiliate company of Chicago-based Orchard Development Group and is developing residential communities in Nevada and Colorado. Gary Reyner, commercial sales director for master Briargate developer La Plata Investments of Colorado Springs, said Mountain View recently contracted to buy its property from La Plata and now has launched its due diligence -- or research -- on the project to decide whether to go forward. A rendering on Mountain View's Web site that shows the loft-condo building might not be the finished product. "We'll see if it's successful," Reyner said.

Airport officials want to know

"How are we doing" cards are now available at the Information Center, which is located just south of the main entrance to the Springs airport. The airport's Advisory Commissioners want feedback from airport visitors on what works and what doesn't.

So far, the airport has received good response from the cards with "a good mix between constructive criticism and positive feed back," said Kelly Koons, airport special projects coordinator.

Koons will give quarterly reports to the commissioners on comments from the cards and ones generated from the airport's Web site,

Reaching back for new bank's name

Jeff Smith and George Lentz, two of four Classic Cos. owners and executives who are majority owners of newly minted Central Bancorp, didn't choose the name for their new bank holding company out of thin air, but instead reached back into the past.

Both worked for Central Bank and its holding company, Central Bancorporation, in the mid-1980s in Colorado Springs before forming Classic homebuilders in the early 1990s. Central was later acquired by what is now U.S. Bank, one of the nation's largest banking firms.

Central Bancorp began meetings earlier this week with state and federal bank regulators to open a new bank that will be called Central Bank & Trust in northern Colorado Springs by early next year.

The company, which employs 50 and also includes Classic's mortgage and title insurance units as well as investment management and trust operations of The Corundum Group, may buy and existing local bank instead of creating its own. Besides Smith and Lentz, Classic CEO Doug Stimple and Classic Executive Vice President Dan Winter own 51 percent of Central Bancorp, while Corundum's Ron Johnson and Steve Condon own the remaining 49 percent.

GE Johnson loses ground in national ranking

Despite increasing their revenue by nearly $15 million to $244.7 million in 2005, GE Johnson Construction dropped slightly on the annual ENR survey that ranks the largest general contractors in the United States.

It was the first time in five years that the Colorado Springs-based company had failed to gain ground in the survey, having gone from 346th in 2003 to 305th in 2004 and 195th last year before falling back to 212th for 2006.

Car buying in China

Here's one to mull. The stats are from automotive powerhouse researcher J.D. Power & Associates.

Percentage of new-car sales in China that are to first-time buyers: 84 percent.

Percent of new-car sales in theUnited States that are to first-time buyers: 1 percent.

No wonder Chinese manufacturers are moving into the U.S. market, reportedly in 2007.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

HMO rates for 2007 down slightly from this year

HMO premium rates are estimated to increase an average of 11.7 percent next year, according to a report released this week by Hewitt Associates.

That’s lower than estimates of 12.4 percent this year and 13.7 percent last year. Why?

Speculation is that it’s from better discounts from helath providers and expanded provider networks.

Still, the increase will continue to be a problem as employers are expected to continue to shift more health insurance costs to employees next year.

Plan would change federal tax system

"Astronomical" economic growth would be the result if the United States adopts a new federal tax system, Dan Mastromarco said during a breakfast and forum on the Fair Tax initiative this week sponsored by the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.

Mastromarco is the author of a proposal now before Congress to eliminate almost all other federal taxes in favor of a sales tax. According to Mastromarco, the benefits of the proposal are
Americans would take home their entire paycheck (minus state income tax), paying federal tax only on the purchase of new goods and services.

The proposal is revenue-neutral, generating the same amount of government revenue as the current tax system. For more details about the Fair Tax initiative, go to

Ford to execs: Have fewer meetings

It sounds like a memo everyone would like to get from their boss: Limit the number of meetings.

For Ford Motor Co., it’s another effort by Chairman and CEO Bill Ford Jr. to tighten the ship, or SUV maybe.

The memo was sent last week to corporate officers and senior executives and emphasized employees focus on “our most essential business objectives while letting go the tasks that have no bearing on our company’s success.”

Guess that would be producing top-quality cars with the safety and performance features that drivers want.

Gold Hill Mesa development gets started

A 20,000-square-foot community center -- including a restaurant, pub, coffee and ice cream shops and fitness center -- is taking shape this week on the site of the Gold Hill Mesa development on Colorado Springs' west side, southeast of U.S. Highway 24 and 21st Street.

The building, to be called The Exchange, is part of a traditional neighborhood development on 210 acres on the site of a former gold and silver milling operation.Gold Hill Mesa is zoned for as many as 1,800 houses and condominiums, along with parks, stores and the community center.

The Exchange is scheduled for completion in November. Later this month, home builder John Laing Homes will start construction of home models as part of the first 120 single-family residences on the property.

More information:


Surplus City ready to close the doors

In what owner David Lippincott describes as "a final goodwill gesture" before Surplus City closes on June 24, employees have been instructed to ignore prices tags on everything left in the store and accept all reasonable offers,
What doesn't sell will be auctioned off on July 8th.
Surplus City, at 2732 W Colorado Ave., sold military surplus and outdoor gear on the city's West side for 61 years until it finally lost out to big box stores and a population shift to the east.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hoglund honored as an LSI Fellow

Timothy Hoglund of Colorado Springs is one of five employees recognized as a Fellow by LSI Logic Corp. for his contributions to the development of information storage and consumer electronics technologies. Hoglund, 43, has been with LSI for nearly 20 years and has been a primary contributor to the definition of the SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) standard. He holds 16 patents and was LSI's Inventor of the Year in 2001.

Springs company drilling for black gold

Colorado Springs-based OAG Resources has begun work on 30 oil and gas wells at its Walbridge property in Lawrence County, Ky., with completion scheduled for later this summer. The first nine wells have reached total depth of 2,700 feet and are productive. OAG President Keith Welch said the company plans to to drill 60 plus wells this year.

Electro Energy gets Army contract for Springs plant

Electro Energy Inc. has received an 18-month contract worth $850,000 from the U.S. Army Communications and Electronics Command to develop BB2590-type Lithium-Ion rechargeable batteries.

All the work will be performed by engineers at Electro Energy's Mobile Energy Plant in Colorado Springs. The company employs about 29 here.

Each EEEI battery will have a capacity of Ah 10, which is 20-30 percent greater than the capacities of currently available batteries of the same type. This high-volume configuration will address numerous Army communication needs.

Jeep recall

DaimlerChrysler announced this week it is recalling about 111,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees after it received reports of injuries from fires caused by overheating front seat warmers.

The U.S. automaker received 32 complaints, with 15 injuries, mostly burns to the legs.

The recall involves the 2003-2004 models of the SUV that have heated seats.

Owners should receive letters in July.

Former Mervyn's space to get new tenants

Six months after closure of the Mervyns department stores at The Citadel and Chapel Hills malls there are signs that both sites may soon have new tenants. Without getting into specifics, broker Keith Brown of Chicago-based Klaff Realty says "we are pretty far along in the process. We feel like we are close to resolving all 10 of the Mervyns properties in Colorado. I can't give you a timetable because nothing has been signed. But we are close." Klaff Realty, LP entered into a joint venture with Lubert Adler Funds, Cerberus Capital Management, Inc., Sun Capital Partners, Inc. and Acadia Realty Trust in 2004 to complete the purchase of Mervyns from Target Corporation for $1.175 billion. Klaff handles all of the real estate transactions for the group.

Chinese, anyone?

David Chang has purchased the Orange Oasis restaurant at 5934 Stetson Hills Blvd. -- in the Ridgeview Marketplace off Powers Boulevard -- and changed the menu from an emphasis on steaks and seafood to Szechuan cuisine that is available at the restaurant or as takeout. Qin Li opened Orange Oasis less than a year ago, marketing it as "fine family dining" but when the restaurant failed to generate a consistent following Li sold it to Chang last month. The conversion to Chinese food was put in place last week.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

BBB looks for donations for silent auction

The BBB is urging businesses to donate to a silent auction that helps fund its many outreach programs. Those programs can focus on issues such as identity theft or be consumer-oriented programs such as common-sense budgeting.

The silent auction happens in conjunction with the BBB of Southern Colorado's Excellence in Customer Service program, which this year will be on Sept. 14.

For more information, visit the BBB of SC's Web site at

Bonus? What bonus?

The eFinancial Careers Web site wants visitors to weigh in on their economic future, asking: "What kind of bonus do you expect this year?" Absolutely no one thought it would be at least double what it was in 2005. One in six (16.7 percent) thought they might get a bonus that was at least 50 percent more while 29.2 percent were optimistic it would increase by 25 percent and 16.7 percent thought it would stay the same. The No. 1 response was "What bonus?" from 37.5 percent of the respondents.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Ex-Springs tech exec moves to AEI

Former vice president and COO of Colorado Springs-based Avalanche Industries Larry Firestone, 48, has been appointed executive vice president and CFO of Advanced Energy Industries, Inc. in Fort Collins. Firestone will assume that position in August 2006 following the completion of his employment responsibilities at Applied Films Corp. in Longmont where he has been working since leaving Avalanche Industries, an electronics manufacturing services company.

Panera launches organic menu for kids

Panera Bread is about to become the first national restaurant chain to introduce a kids’ menu with organic and all-natural offerings through its new “Panera Kids” menu. To get the word out, Panera Bread is providing free kids meals on June 21 -- with the purchase of any regular priced menu item -- at all 21 Colorado bakery-cafes, including the three in Colorado Springs. The meal options are all prepared with nourishing ingredients like white whole grain bread, all-natural peanut butter, and organic American cheese, and each is accompanied by organic yogurt and beverages.