Friday, December 15, 2006

Trade mission to Northern Ireland

A delegation of Colorado Springs high tech company officials will be traveling to Belfast, Northern Ireland for a trade mission Jan. 28-Feb. 3. The participating businesses will have four days of one-on-one appointments with carefully selected potential partners to facilitate entry into the rich European Union market. The Northern Ireland Technology and Development Center of Denver, which is organizing the mission, is seeking participation from local companies in the biotechnology, life sciences, information technology, precision engineering, medical device, aerospace manufacturing, nanotechnology and renewable energy fields. For further information contact Peggy McMahon, director of the NITDC, at or at 1-303-572-5200

Arizona fitness chain has eye on Colorado Springs

Mountainside Fitness of Phoenix is considering Colorado Springs for one of the six locations it plans to open in Colorado in the next two years. The company will make its first venture outside Arizona when it opens a fitness center in the Denver suburb of Westminster in January, and it is scouting locations in downtown Denver, Thornton, Golden, Littleton, Aurora, Parker and Lone Tree, in addition to the Springs. Mountainside Fitness clubs offer exercise classes and weight training, with amenities ranging from sauna and steam room to a climbing wall. The clubs range in size from 13,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Checks Unlimited spared significant layoffs

Colorado Springs-based Checks Unlimited was spared significant job cuts when parent company Deluxe Corp. of Minneapolis laid off 250 of its 8,500 employees nationwide last month. Terry Peterson, vice president of investor relations for Deluxe, estimated that the cuts in Colorado Springs amounted to "fewer than five employees, mostly in the support and administrative areas." Checks Unlimited, the 23rd largest private employer in the region with 670 workers, designs, manufactures and sells specialty checks and accessories to consumers through direct mail and on the Internet.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The survey says: Don't blame the media for soft home sales

Many people shoot the messenger when the news is bad, or, at least, not to their liking. Now that the Pikes Peak region's housing market has followed the rest of the nation into a funk, some local real estate industry members have pointed a finger at the local and national news media as bearing some of the blame. Their theory is that when prospective home buyers hear or read the market has slowed, they'll hold off on their purchases. News stories become a self-fulfilling prophecy, critics say. But a recent National Association of Home Builders' survey says traditional pocketbook issues, not news stories, largely drive home-buying decisions. When asked to rate the importance of several factors that might affect their purchase, the No. 1 reason, which was cited by 80 percent of survey respondents, was price. Other reasons, in order of importance, included: home appreciation, cited by 71 percent of respondents; the ability to sell their current home at a fair price, 70 percent; mortgage rates, 69 percent; and personal issues, such as a new job or a growing family, 60 percent.

On a list of eight factors, news stories about the real estate market ranked second to last, with 28 percent of respondents saying such stories were an important factor behind their decision to buy.

"The media provides an important service by giving consumers the big picture of what is occurring in the housing marketplace, even the big picture in their local markets," said NAHB President David Pressly, a North Carolina builder. "But despite that, local reporting can't convey the information that consumers consider the most when they are looking for a new home." The NAHB surveyed 2,000 households during the last week of October.

Personal assistant service for seniors

Nearly everyone could use a hand around the house, and one local business specializes in giving seniors a little extra help.

Peter and Marsha Thorson recently relocated their company of 12 years, GoodLife Senior Care Inc., from Scottsdale, Ariz. to Colorado Springs. The business provides non-medical, in-home personal services to seniors.

Caregivers assist with housekeeping, meal preparation, laundry, shopping, running errands and transportation.

Personal assistants enable seniors to stay in their homes as they age, Peter Thorson said.

Services are typically arranged on an hourly basis, however, overnight and 24-hour care also are available.

For more information, call 266-4799 or see

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Conway's Red Top closes its newest store

Conway's Red Top restaurant has shut down its worst-performing store at 5865 Palmer Park Blvd. due to a sharp loss in business and concern over the minimum wage increase. Operations manager Ralph Brown said the Palmer Park store -- the newest in the chain -- was bringing in one-third the revenue it was shortly after it opened three years ago. With added competition from restaurants in the area and an anticipated increase in wages of $100 a store, per day, due to the change in the minimum wage law, the Conway family decided it made little sense to continue. The chain's other five stores, four in Colorado Springs and one in Pueblo, will remain open, and Brown said the company may look at a location to replace the Palmer Park store "once we have had a chance to assess the impact of the minimum wage law."

Of mountains and molehills

You knew this would happen. In a Gazette story Dec. 3 that discussed why views are important to area residents and businesses, Mike Kazmierski, the Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp. president, was asked if mountains and views matter to prospective employers when they're considering the Springs as a place to do business. Nope, Kazmierski, replied; a quality work force is most important. Views, he said, are "a single component in a very complex mix of different elements in the community. What we educate a prospect on is the quality of our work force. If we don't get past that hurdle, they don't care about anything else." Then, Kazmierski added that not every area with great mountains is a hotbed for business expansion. "There are mountains in Alaska," he said, "and nobody really cares about them." His comment didn't set well with one e-mailer to The Gazette. "He really stuck his foot in his mouth," the e-mailer said. "Has he ever been to Alaska? There are plenty of people who care about them, to include myself. One could make the same statement about the hill called 'Pikes Peak.' It's not just the mountains in Alaska that draw people there. It's the majestic beauty of the entire state; the friendly people, the free spirit and the simple lifestyle. Alaska is a far better place to raise kids than in Colorado. It's Mr. Kazmierski's thinking along with many other things about Colorado that solidify it was a mistake moving here." Kazmierski said he wasn't ripping Alaska, just using it as an example to explain that businesses care more about quality workers than quality views.

Monday, December 11, 2006

HBA seeking MAME entries

The Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs has set a 4 p.m., Dec. 15 deadline for entries for its 24th annual MAME Awards, which will take place in April. The MAME Awards are the housing's industry's Oscars -- honors given out each year for best new home, best sales person, best architectural design, best signage and even best sales office or showroom, among several other categories. Awards go to builders, developers, architects, designers and others in the industry, and the annual dinner and MAME ceremony -- typically a stylish affair -- serves as a showcase for the Pikes Peak region's home building industry. Only builders, developers and their associates who were HBA members in good standing during 2006 are allowed to enter. For entry information, categories and the like, visit the HBA's Web site at and click on the MAME Awards link. The event takes place April 14 in the Rocky Mountain Ballroom of The Broadmoor hotel's International Center.