Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Colorado Springs EDC tabs new board chairman

The Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp. has a new board chairman. Scott Bryan, president and chief executive officer of Bryan Construction Inc., will begin a one-year term Oct. 1 and serve through Sept. 30, 2009. The private, non-profit EDC is the Pikes Peak region's primary jobs-generating organization. “We are experiencing very challenging economic times and EDC is laying the groundwork for results," Bryan said. "An aggressive marketing effort has netted over 192 prospective companies and we are poised to recruit more companies as the economy shows signs of improvement. The board and staff are intensely focused on turning this corner.” Other new EDC board members include Bill Berenz, American National Bank regional president; Scott Blackmun, a partner with law firm Holme Roberts & Owen; Mike Faricy, president of Faricy Boys Chrysler Jeep; Kevin Patterson, broker-owner of the Patterson Group, a residential real estate brokerage; George Swintz, asset management vice president for Maryland-based real estate company Corporate Office Properties Trust; and Bill Hodgkins, a senior executive with the Boeing Co. Pam Keller, executive vice president of home builder Keller Homes and who served as EDC chairwoman for the past year, will serve as an ex-officio member of the board. More information: www.coloradosprings.org/.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Two Colorado Springs residential brokerages merge

Two Colorado Springs residential real estate brokerages, Keller Williams Premier Realty and Hope Realty, have merged to create Keller Williams Hope Realty. “The merger helps us better serve our agents as well as our clients,” said Robert Edgin of Hope Realty. Said Gary Keller, founder and board chairman of Keller Williams International: “We view the Colorado Springs market as a market with a tremendous amount of growth potential…The union of these two companies is a step in the right direction.” Rick Guthire, team leader of the new Keller Williams Hope Realty, said the group's ownership plans to "develop and train agents to a high state of professionalism in Colorado Springs. " Guthrie added that the new Keller Williams Hope Realty plans to open a downtown office to better serve agents and clients. More information about the merger or the new downtown location, call Guthrie or Edgin at 576-5432.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Survey: Coloradans support domestic oil development

Coloradans are concerned about the price of gasoline, and the majority support increasing the nation's supply of oil and natural gas resources, according to a survey commissioned by API.

The July telephone poll of 501 registered Colorado voters showed 67 percent somewhat or strongly support increased access to domestic oil and natural gas resources; 20 percent said they oppose increased access. And 95 percent said they are somewhat or very concerned about the price of gasoline.

"Despite these numbers and the recent wave of public support, Congress remains in the way of creating a comprehensive energy policy with all options on the table, including development of domestic resources, more conservation and energy efficiency," said Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association. "Now is the time for Congress to ease restrictions on non-park, non-wilderness federal lands out West and lift the ban on offshore drilling."

For the complete survey, go to www.energytomorrow.org/colorado.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New Alzheimer's and memory care center opening

Loyalton of Broadmoor will open a 40-suite building for Alzheimer's and memory care patients in mid- to late September, adjacent to its assisted living center at 615 Southpointe Court.

"There's a tremendous need for memory care everywhere and specifically in Colorado Springs," said spokeswoman Dana Gardiner. "The population of people with Alzheimer's and dimentia in the city is astounding and growing."

Shared and private suites will be available in the new building, she said. Called Broadmoor's Join Their Journey, the program will offer activities, medical and personal care and family support. Residents also will have social areas, a community cafe, a beauty salon and other amenities.

Loyalton plans to form a support group that includes specialists in the field who can answer questions and provide coping mechanisms for caregivers.

Loyalton of Broadmoor has been owned by Emeritus Senior Living for two years and has been in Colorado Springs for about a decade. Emeritus is one of the largest operators of free-standing assisted living facilities in the U.S.

Call 579-5000 for more information.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fountain commercial center expands again

The Markets at Mesa Ridge shopping center in Fountain, south of Colorado Springs, is continuing its expansion. A groundbreaking took place Wednesday, Aug. 13, for the addition of an Ent Federal Credit Union, Little Caesars Pizza and Papa Murphy’s Pizza. Construction should be completed in February. The Markets at Mesa Ridge, at Mesa Ridge Parkway and Fountain Mesa Road, is a joint venture between a California-based real estate investment company and members of the Janitell family of the Pikes Peak region. The development started in 2001 with construction of a Safeway grocery, and will include more than 500,000 square feet of commercial space when completed. Other existing tenants include Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, Walgreens, Advance Auto, Sonic, Subway, Wells Fargo, Chase Bank and Carl’s Jr. Project developers and Fountain officials say the Markets at Mesa Ridge will serve city residents as well as thousands of additional troops that will be stationed at nearby Fort Carson in the next few years. More information: Tammy J. Gilbert or Richard Walker of First Properties Inc., 576-2288; Lisa Cochrun, Fountain Economic Development Director, 322-2056; http://www.firstproperties1.com/.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Get on board for Manitou EDC fundraiser

The Pikes Peak Cog Railway is being transformed into a fund-raising vehicle -- literally -- for the Economic Development Council in Manitou Springs. A fundraiser for the organization starts with a social hour at 4:15 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22, at the Cog Railway Depot in Manitou Springs. At 4:45 p.m., participants will board the last Cog Railway train of the day, travel to Pikes Peak and return at 7:50 p.m. For $50 per person, participants will be treated to hors d’oeuvres and refreshments from The Cliff House and on-board entertainment and wine provided by D’Vine Wines, both of Manitou Springs. Door prizes also will be awarded during the train ride. Reservations for the train ride are required; call the Manitou Springs Economic Development Council at 685-9741. The council works to revitalize Manitou Avenue through streetscape improvements, while marketing those improvements to attract new businesses and to strengthen Manitou Springs’ economy, said Kitty Clemens, the Economic Development Council's director. More information: www.manitouspringsahead.com and www.cograilway.com/.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Home prices fall in Colorado Springs area

Median single-family home prices fell to $200,922 in the second quarter in Colorado Springs, a 3.7 percent decline when compared with the same period a year ago, according to a report released Tuesday, Aug. 12, by Zillow, the Seattle-based Internet home-appraisal site. For all of El Paso County, which includes the Springs, second-quarter median prices fell 3.8 percent to $200,295. In Teller County, second-quarter prices declined 5.1 percent to $199,301 when compared to the same period last year. By comparison, prices in Denver dropped 5.4 percent in the second quarter, while Pueblo prices fell 0.4 percent. Nationally, median home prices fell 9.9 percent in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Zillow estimates 37.2 percent of Colorado Springs homes saw a drop in value in the second quarter, while 26.1 percent of homes sold in that period were sold for less than the previous purchase price. Of homes sold in the second quarter, 4.6 percent were foreclosures. More information: http://www.zillow.com/reports/RealEstateMarketReports.htm

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Garman's son says he'd like to keep the business

We weren't able to reach Michael Patrick Garman while working on today's story on the plans to close the Michael Garman Gallery early next year, but we spoke with the younger Garman this morning.

He said he'd love to carry on the family business, which he ran for five years before having a falling out with his father last December.

"It was always my dream to run the company and continue on the legacy," Garman said.

Michael Patrick Garman said he still talks to his father, but not about the business.

"My No. 1 concern is my relationship with my father," he said. "I still love the man, he’s still my father. If he doesn’t have too much longer on this earth, I don’t want to create a big rift."

Michael Garman, 70, said on Monday that he's been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and his doctors say he likely has only a couple years to live.

His daughter, Vanessa Garman, now oversees the gallery. She said the business would be too expensive for any of Michael Garman's three children to buy on their own and that her brother hasn't made an offer.

"He’s never discussed this with my father at all," she said.

Michael Patrick Garman said he still sculpts and plans to teach classes at the Business of Art Center in Manitou Springs this fall.

USAA offers members online car-buying service

USAA insurance, a Fortune 150 financial services company that caters to the military and their families and has about 1,000 employees in Colorado Springs, has launched an online auto loan and car-buying service for members.

The new services allow members to handle all the steps of car buying -- from selecting a vehicle to financing and obtaining insurance -- electronically and without having to leave home.

The program is being done in partnership with Zag.com, which established a network of participating dealerships in 70 cities across 28 states.

To get started, members can go to www.usa.com/auto.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Garman offers gallery closure details

“I never had any idea it would get this far,” sculptor Michael Garman said, “I guess that’s why it got this far.”

Garman, 70, flew into Colorado Springs on Monday for a press conference making official what fans of his work have been talking about for a week: Michael Garman Productions will stop making reproductions of Garman’s sculptures this winter and the gallery in Old Colorado City will close once the remaining inventory is sold — probably in spring or early summer 2009.

Garman said his health is the problem. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and doctors have only given him a couple years to live. It’s time, he said, to focus on other things.

“It’s too personal a business for me to sell it,” he said.

His son, Michael P. Garman, ran the business for five years and had planned to take it over, but he decided to strike out on his own, Garman said.

“I’m not a good manager,” Garman said. “He doesn’t want to manage. Hell of a good sculptor, though. He’s decided to go out on his own now, find his own place.”

His daughter Vanessa Garman will run the business until the end. The company’s 15 employees should stay on until the business wraps up, she said.

“We’re going to need everybody until the end,” she said.

The big question is what happens to Magic Town, Garman’s series of street scenes that have become a tourist attraction. Magic Town could be sold and moved, or it could stay put and be run by whoever buys the gallery building.

“The last thing we would want is for it to end up in storage,” Vanessa Garman said.

Losing the gallery will be a blow to Old Colorado City, said Jim Heikes, owner of Thunder Mountain Trading Company and president of Old Colorado City Associates.

“It’s really a sad thing,” he said. “He has been a cornerstone for years and years and years. It will be a tremendous loss.”

Because of his health, Garman is trying to limit the time he spends in the thin air of Colorado Springs. He plans to return Sept. 6 and 7 and Nov. 22 and 23 to appear at the gallery and sign his work for fans.

Garman doesn’t plan to sell any new works, but said he won’t stop sculpting.

“It’s been everything to me,” he said, brushing back tears.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Cliff House expansion approved by Historic Preservation Commission

The Manitou Springs Historic Preservation Commission on Wednesday approved the Cliff House’s proposed $15 million expansion around the historic Wheeler House by a 5-2 vote. The expansion will go before the city council on Aug. 26.

"This puts us in a position to go to city council in pretty good shape," said Paul York, general manager for the Cliff House.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Texas Roadhouse to the rescue

Those Bennigan's gift cards are worth something after all.

The restaurant chain filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection last week and said all company owned stores were closing. That included two locations in Colorado Springs. Those customers stuck with Bennigan's gift cards, though, can now exchange them at Texas Roadhouse restaurants for a free entrée certificate. The offer expires August 30.

Texas Roadhouse offered a similar program after Roadhouse Grill filed for bankruptcy.

Banning Lewis Ranch rec center honored

The Northtree Ranch House (right), the first recreation center constructed in the massive Banning Lewis Ranch development that makes up most of Colorado Springs' east side, was recently honored as a 2008 Gold Nugget award recipient in the category of Best Public/Private Recreational Use Facility. The Gold Nugget awards, sponsored by the Pacific Coast Builders Conference trade association, have been given out annually since 1963 and recognize architectural excellence in design and land use planning for residential, commercial and industrial projects. The 7,500-square-foot Northree Ranch House serves residents in Northree, the first residential area being developed in the more than 21,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch, southeast of Woodmen and Marksheffel roads. The Northtree Ranch House recreation center was designed by Danielian Associates of Irvine, Calif., and built by Golden Triangle Construction of Colorado Springs. “It’s an attractive, club-like setting,” said John Cassiani, vice president of project operations for the Banning Lewis Ranch development. “This facility is much more than a rec center, it’s a community gathering spot with fresh design and modern comforts set against the backdrop of Pikes Peak and the front range.” Northtree, which covers 321 acres and which will have more than 1,000 homes, opened in September 2007. More information: www.banninglewisranch.com.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Michael Garman gallery to close, end production

Colorado Springs will lose an institution in November when the Michael Garman Gallery and Michael Garman Productions go out of business.

Garman turned his aptitude for sculpture into a mass-production business that made him as much a businessman as an artist, and his Magic Town diorama in Old Colorado City grew into a local tourist attraction.

Garman's health has been bad, store manager Jennifer Rohlfs said.

"He's ready to enjoy the last few years of his life without the stress of the company," she said. "We're not happy about it, but it's something that can't be avoided."

Michael Garman Productions announced the closing to its retailers in July. Rohlfs said that the company would continue producing sculptures through Nov. 1, then sell off the remaining stock into next year.

New medical office building opens

NorthCare at St. Francis, an 80,000-square-foot, physician-owned medical office building linked via a skybridge to the new St. Francis Medical Center, opens today, Aug. 4.

Many of the tenants are relocating to the new hospital campus at Woodmen Road and Powers Boulevard from the area surrounding Penrose Community Hospital on North Academy Boulevard. That hospital is closing Aug. 16, the day St. Francis Medical Center opens.

Tenants in the new building include Pikes Peak Urology, Walgreens, Women’s Surgical Center, Davita Dialysis, Mountain View Medical Group Pediatric Specialists and numerous others.

The building was developed by NorthCare LLC, headed by local physician Dr. Kevin Weary and Michael Heritage of The London Real Estate Group. It is 85 percent leased, Heritage said.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Local credit union building new digs

Air Academy Federal Credit Union is creating a little more elbow room for the 100 employees at its Colorado Springs headquarters.
In July, construction started on a building that will more than double its office space.
The 45,000-member financial institution has grown by nearly 60 percent during the past five years to $385 million in assets spread among 12 branches. Glenn Strebe, Air Academy’s chief executive. said the credit union searched for nearly two years to find a centrally located site of the right size to accommodate Air Academy’s growth for decades before finding a 13-acre parcel at 9810 N. Union Blvd., northeast of Powers and Union boulevards.
Air Academy officials hope to move into the 52,000-square-foot, four-story headquarters during the third quarter of 2009 and sell their 20,000-square-foot headquarters at 1355 Kelly Johnson Blvd. that the credit union built in 1980 after moving off academy grounds..
The new building will include a branch with drive-up facilities, meeting rooms, a fitness center, storage and space to expand information technology operations, he said.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mortenson donates Open tickets to military personnel

Mortenson Construction has donated 1,150 tickets to this week’s U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor to active United States military personnel, including those with NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), NORTHCOM (United States Northern Command), Peterson Air Force Base, the United States Air Force Academy and Fort Carson. The First Army Division West, the U.S. Army Installation Management Agency, the 4th Infantry Division, the 43rd Area Support Group and the Special Forces Airborne were part of the distribution to Fort Carson.
All of the tickets were given to non-commissioned personnel, and some went to wounded troops and Purple Heart recipients.
“As an active member of the Colorado Springs Community, we thought it was the least we could do,” said Clay Benson, construction executive in Mortenson’s Colorado Spring’s office.
Mortenson Construction is currently working on over $140 million in projects at Fort Carson.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Classic Cos. joins forces with custom home builder

Classic Cos., Colorado Springs' largest privately held home builder, has merged with local builder Scott Building Inc. to create a custom home division, to be known as Flying Horse Signature Homes. Steve Scott of Scott Building has constructed custom homes for nearly 30 years in High Forest Ranch, Black Forest, Pine Creek and the Spires, among other communities; Classic previously had its own custom home division. The first project for Flying Horse Signature Homes is a $4.4 million Tuscan-inspired villa that's been built on one of 29 high-end lots being developed along the Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course at Flying Horse, the 1,500-acre Classic Cos. development on the Springs' far north side. The house will be available for view as part of the Parade of Homes from Aug. 8-24. More information: http://www.flyinghorsesignaturehomes.com/

Parade of Homes runs Aug. 8-24

The 2008 Parade of Homes, sponsored by the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, runs Aug. 8-24 and will feature 29 homes, including a dozen priced at $1 million and up. Thirteen of the 29 homes will be featured at two of the Springs' newest developments: Flying Horse on the city's far north side and the Banning Lewis Ranch, which makes up most of the Springs' east side. Tickets are on sale at local Safeway stores, and are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors; kids under 18 are free. More information: http://www.cshba.com/, and click on the Parade of Homes button.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Visitors bureau honored by trade mag

Experience Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak, the local convention and visitors bureau, earned the Distinctive Achievement Award from the readers of Associated Conventions and Facilities magazine. Winners of the award will be honored in the magazine's August issue.

Bennigan's files for Chapter 7

All of the restaurant chain's corporate-owned locations are closed, including two in Colorado Springs at 2540 Tenderfoot Hill St. and 3502 N Academy Blvd.
Drive-In Autosound has won the first
annual Pioneer Community Give Back
Award. The Colorado Springs-based mobile entertainment dealer, owned by Kevin and Scott Clark, will donate the $10,000 it received from the award to the Fort Carson Officer Spouses' Club Santa's Workshop.

The presentation ceremony will take place Tuesday, July 29, at 4 p.m. at the store's 165 Motor Way location. Pioneer's new award honors dealers for outstanding community service. Drive-In Autosound has supported the military in numerous ways, including special rates and financing for local military, co-hosting football parties and welcoming soldiers returning from deployment.

The Fort Carson Officer Spouses' Club Santa's Workshop expects 2,000 local children with parents at Fort Carson to need gifts this year.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Wall Street Journal shines spotlight on Colorado Springs and USOC

It's possible to buy this sort of publicity for your city, but it's so much better when it comes for free. The Monday, July 28, Wall Street Journal includes a special six-page report on seven economic development success stories around the globe -- "seven places, seven ideas," as a Journal editor's note explain. Among the seven cities featured in the report: Colorado Springs and its successful effort to retain the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters. A story explains how politicians, civic leaders and business people worked together to prevent the USOC from moving its headquarters out of the Springs, where it's been for 30 years. Mayor Lionel Rivera, USOC Chief Executive Officer Jim Scherr and local developer Ray Marshall are among those interviewed in the story; they discuss some of the details of a $53 million incentives package offered by the city to keep the UOSC here. "This is a watershed event for Colorado Springs in terms of economic development," Mike Anderson, deputy city manager, is quoted by the Journal. "The broad partnership put together is hopefully a model that can be used in the future." To see the story, go to online.wsj.com/public/page/2_1593.html and click on "Capturing the Gold."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Springs shares its business acumen

Mezyad Alterkawi, chief executive of the Riyadh Technology Incubation Center at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, is visiting the Colorado Springs Technology Incubator through Friday (Aug. 10) to learn more about how such facilities operate in the United States.
Alterkawi arrived at the Springs incubator July 10 to gather information about technology entrepreneurs, private investing, venture capital, small businesses, technology-transfer programs and the details of managing an incubator. He also is meeting with officials from the city of Colorado Springs, the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, the Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp., the U.S. Air Force Academy and the University of Colorado at Boulder and Colorado Springs.
The Riyadh incubator, which now houses one company specializing in radio frequency-identification devices, opened in temporary quarters in May and will move into a 12-story building now under construction in about 18 months, Alterkawi said.
The Springs and Saudi incubators last week signed an agreement to sit in on each other’s meetings through video teleconferencing and form relationships between incubator companies that could include joint ventures, investments and other business opportunities.
The visit was set up through Khurshid Quershi, president and chief executive of zeeWAVES Systems Inc., an incubator tenant that develops antennae for wireless networks.

GRX singled out for environmental contributions

Denver-based Guaranteed Recycling Xperts, which has an office in Colorado Springs, received the first Greenovation Award from CSIA, Colorado's largest technology association.

The award honors an organization that is making a concerted effort to minimize and eliminate negative impact on the environment through sustainable and scientifically supported methods.

Guaranteed Recycling Xperts is an electronics waste recycler and has three facilities, including one in Colorado Springs. The company recycles all electronic devices and provides pick-up services for businesses and organizations.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Real estate professionals bullish on their companies

Commercial real estate professionals are a hearty lot. They recognize the worsening economic conditions nationally, but remain generally positive about the fortunes of their own companies. Those are some of the results of a survey of real estate professionals by accounting giant Grant Thornton LLP. In a survey this year, Grant Thornton found nearly six in 10 real estate executives -- 57 percent -- are pessimistic about the U.S. economy next year, and almost half -- 48 percent --feel the same about the real estate industry’s outlook. Those figures are up sharply from 2006, when 15 percent of survey respondents had a dim view of the national economy and 5 percent were pessimistic about the real estate industry’s outlook. In spite of the latest survey numbers, half of this year's respondents are optimistic about their own companies and only 12 percent had a pessimistic outlook. Other findings: When asked about the single most important issue facing their industry in the next year, 36 percent said the national economy; 21 percent cited earnings and operations; and 19 percent said the ability to borrow money. Also, 69 percent of survey respondents said they think unemployment rates in their industry will increase; 61 percent predicted commercial vacancy rates will rise; and 51 percent believe interest rates will fall. For its survey, Grant Thornton solicited online comments from nearly 1,900 real estate contacts in its database, and sought comments from 4,000 developers, owners and investors who are members of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties.
The company collected 341 survey responses in March of this year. More information: http://www.grantthornton.com/

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hotel occupancy declines in June

Hotel occupancy rates in Colorado Springs dropped by 1.6 percent in June compared with a year ago, according to the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report from the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association. The average room rate fell 2.07 percent to $93.41, its sharpest decline since 2005. Statewide, occupancy rates declined 3.4 percent to 71 percent, although room rates rose $5.06 to $123.82.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Springs spared Starbucks ax

Local Starbucks devotees can relax. Starbucks Corp. has released a list of the 600 company-owned stores it plans to close beginning this month in its effort to dump unprofitable locations. There are nine Colorado stores on the list, but none in Colorado Springs. There are three stores in Denver, two in Loveland, and one each in Boomfield, Conifer, Lakewood and Longmont slated for closure. You can find the whole list at the "Press Room" at www.starbucks.com.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Contest honors amazing word-of-mouth marketing

Got an amazing word-of-mouth marketing campaign?
Here's your chance to showcase it nationally.
The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has launched its third annual Wommie Awards, which recognize outstanding word-of-mouth marketing.
Wommie winners will be selected by a peer review panel and recognized at the trade association's summit in November in Las Vegas.

The deadline to submit a word-of-mouth marketing success story is Sept. 1. Go to www.womman.org/casestudy to submit an entry.

Casino smoking trials delayed

The three Cripple Creek casino managers ticketed for smoking in mid-June appeared in Teller County Court today. Two of the casinos, the Double Eagle and Bronco Billy's, asked for pre-trial conferences, which were set for late July. The third, the Midnight Rose, represented by manager Donald Rosen, pleaded "not guilty" and will go to court Sept. 11.

For a short time, it looked like there would be some surprise fireworks in Cripple Creek. When Judge Jackson Peters called for Bronco Billy's co-general manager Marc Murphy, he was nowhere to be found. Nor was his attorney. Judge Peters said he would issue a bench warrant for Murphy, although assistant district attorney Nathan Whitney asked the judge to give Murphy until the end of the day to appear.

Turns out, it was just a misunderstanding. Murphy's lawyer had filed the motion asking for a pre-trial hearing late in the day Wednesday and the paperwork hadn't made it to the judge yet.

Eric Rose, general manager of the Colorado Grande Casino, which has remained non-smoking, said he is frustrated by what he sees as delaying tactics, allowing the casinos to continue smoking.

"I'm sure that's their plan," he said. "It could easily be a year, I'd imagine."

Stephanie Steinberg, chairwoman of Smoke-Free Gaming of Colorado, said the smoking casinos need to face up to the facts.

"I wish they would just come to the conclusion that the law is what it is," she said. "They still haven't accepted that the law applies to all casinos."

A fourth casino, the Gold Rush, allowed smoking beginning July 11, was ticketed by Cripple Creek police on July 12, then suddenly stopped smoking on Tuesday. Gold Rush general manager Mike Hirsch said the casino's initial court date was set for Sept. 29.

All four casinos that have allowed smoking assert that they meet the cigar exemption from the statewide smoking ban. Bronco Billy's co-general manager Mike Chaput said it will be the court's decision.

"It's a legal matter now and we have to be silent about it," Chaput said.

Springs-based LearningRx gets national attention

Colorado Springs-based brain training company, LearningRx, was featured in Fortune Small Business magazine in a cover story on customer satisfaction scoring.

LearningRx was one of four companies featured because of its "net promoter score" of 72, with the average being 15. The company uses the net promoter score not only to determine success among clients but also to track the performance of employees and links rewards to individual scores.

LearningRx was founded in Colorado Springs in 2001 and now has 66 centers in 24 states. The company specializes in identifying and correcting underlying cognitive skill deficiencies in people of all ages. Trainers use one-on-one sessions to enhance weak cognitive skills, including memory, attention and processing. More than 15,000 students have gone through the training with average gains of 4.12 years across nine learning areas.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Local SBA lending on pace to set record

Government-backed lending to small businesses in El Paso County is on a pace to set a record in for a second consecutive year, according to data from the U.S. Small Business Administration for the first three quarters of the fiscal year.
Thirty-four lenders have made 193 loans in the county totaling $44.8 million, which is on a pace to break last year’s county record of $57.5 million in SBA-backed lending. SBA lending, measured by the amount loaned, is down about 10 percent from the period a year ago both statewide and nationwide. The SBA measures its lending based on the federal government’s fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
“This is remarkable because lending is down across the nation. It shows that businesses in El Paso County still have access to capital,” said Becky Fuller, who organized a program in 2006 to boost local small-business lending by training bankers on how to make the government-backed loans. She also is southern Colorado business development manager for Colorado Lending Source, the state’s top SBA lender so far this year, based on the amount loaned.
U.S. Bank is the top local SBA lender so far this year with 42 loans totaling $3.62 million, ranking it ahead of Chase Bank with 36 loans for $3.88 million and Wells Fargo Bank with 24 loans for $4.31 million. Wachovia SBA Lending Inc. is the top lender based on the amount loaned with 12 loans for $8.02 million, followed by Colorado Lending Source with 13 loans for $6.41 million and Pikes Peak Regional Development Corp. with 13 loans for $5.88 million.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ramtron shares slide on manufacturing defect news

Ramtron International Corp. stock fell Tuesday to its lowest level in nearly nine months after it told stockholders Monday it may be liable for customer losses stemming from a manufacturing defect in a semiconductor produced by its primary vendor.
Shares of the Colorado Springs-based semiconductor design company lost 57 cents, or 14.9 percent, to close at $3.25 in heavy trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market on Tuesday, the lowest level Ramtron stock has reached since closing at $3.22 on Oct. 19.

Springs still in top 10 for tech workers

Colorado Springs ranked seventh in the nation in the percentage of its work force employed in high-technology industries during 2006, according to a report by the American Electronics Association using the most recent data available.

That is down from fourth in 2001, mostly because the city had the second-highest percentage decline in technology employment among the 60 cities included in the Cybercities 2008 report, the first published by the Washington, D.C.-based organization since 2000. Boulder kept its second-place ranking in the percentage of its work force employed in technology despite losing more high-tech jobs on a percentage basis than any of the 60 cities.

Despite a decline in technology employment of 9,700 jobs between 2001 and 2006, the Springs still had 12.2 percent of its private-sector work force employed in technology jobs in 2006, the report found. San Jose, Calif.; Boulder; Huntsville, Ala.; Durham, N.C.; Washington, D.C., and Manchester, N.H., all ranked ahead of Colorado Springs in percentage of their work force in technology jobs.

Most of the city’s technology employment is in computer systems design, engineering services and semiconductor manufacturing, where the Springs still ranked 10th highest in chip making employment. The Springs isn’t likely to move in the rankings in coming years — Intel Corp. shut down its 1,000-employee Colorado Springs semiconductor plant late last year and Hewlett-Packard Co. is moving a 800-employee technical and customer support center to New Mexico next year.

The report uncovered a couple of bright spots for the local technology industry — local technology workers earned an average of $74,673 in 2006, or nearly twice the average annual private-sector wage, and the number of technology businesses grew by 15.1 percent between 2001 and 2006.

For more information, go to http://www.aeanet.org/publications/idjj_cc2008_overview.asp.

Three local students win young entrepreneur awards

Three local students have received scholarships from the National Federation of Independent Business Young Entrepreneur Foundation.

The program awards scholarships toward tuition to universities, colleges, community colleges and vocational training programs to reward and encourage entrepreneruial talents among high school students.

More than 8,000 students applied this year; 400 scholarships were awarded. Students had to write an essay describing their entrepreneurial endeavors and future goals. Academic performance also was considered.

Rampart High School senior Davis Vantilburg, Coronado High School senior Steven Woolridge and Pine Creek High School senior Andrew Yoder all won scholarships.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Gold Rush Casino allows smoking

A fourth Cripple Creek casino is allowing smoking. On Friday, the Gold Rush Casino posted signs declaring that it was a cigar bar, an exemption under state’s smoking ban, and smoking was allowed. Cripple Creek police wrote one of the casino managers a $200 ticket on Saturday. That case won’t be heard in court until Sept. 29. Three other casinos that claimed the exemption in June — Bronco Billy’s, the Midnight Rose and the Double Eagle — will appear in court on Thursday for their smoking citations. The Double Eagle stopped allowing smoking after receiving a ticket, but both Bronco Billy’s and the Midnight Rose continue to permit smoking.

Catholic Health Initiatives largest Catholic hospital system in U.S.

Catholic Health Initiatives, the parent company of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, was the largest Catholic hospital in the nation last year, according to Modern Healthcare magazine.

The system operates 72 hospitals in 19 states, including Colorado, and runs Centura Health through a joint operating agreement with PorterCare Adventist Health System.

Health care systems were ranked by ownership type and size. Catholic Health Initiatives was No. 6 in the ranking by patient revenue, at $7.21 billion, up from $6.83 billion in 2006. The hospital system's net operating income increased to $359.6 million in 2007, up from $282.9 million in 2006. Total assets rose to $11.38 billion from $9.57 billion the previous year.

Nationwide, revenue from patient care at hospitals grew 8.4 percent in 2007. Hospital system profits increased by 23.8 percent.

Parker gets E85 pump

A new E85 pump has opened at the Western Convenience store at 11515 N. Highway 83 in Parker for drivers who have flexible-fuel vehicles.

Western Convenience has 17 locations that offer E85, including in El Paso and Teller counties.
E85 contains 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

The Governor's Biofuels Coalition and the Colorado Corn Growers Association have provided funding for the state's renewable fuels stations.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ex-Laing executive launches home building company

Ron Covington, the former Colorado Springs division president of California-based John Laing Homes, has launched his own Springs homebuilding company: Ron Covington Homes. Covington is partnering with developer LandCo Equity Partners in the creation of the company, which will build in four Springs-area neighborhoods. Covington launched Estate Homes in 1998, which was later acquired and became the Colorado Springs division of John Laing Homes. “We have worked with some of the same contractors and partners for close to 20 years and we are excited to continue these relationships,” Covington said. Eric Ashcroft, whose father started Ashcroft Homes, will serve as vice president of the company.

Experience Colorado Springs takes the gold

Experience Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak, the local convention and visitors bureau, earned the Gold Service award from Meetings & Conventions magazine for the fourth straight year. Experience was one of 77 CVB's nationally to earn the honor, which is voted on by the magazine's readership.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wanted: Spellcheck in Meridian Ranch

Home builders get style points for architecture, floor plans and amenities -- not spelling. In the unincorporated Falcon area of El Paso County, north of Meridian Road and Stapleton Drive, Denver-based builder Richmond American Homes has parked a large semi-tractor trailer that serves as a billboard-like advertisement for its houses being built in the Meridian Ranch development across the street. However, the truck, emblazoned on both sides with Richmond American's logo and colors, beckons potential home buyers to Meridan Ranch, not Meridian Ranch. Oh well. Just so that the windows don't stick, the doors shut tight and the toilets flush. More information about Meridian Ranch: www.meridianranch.com/.

CNBC ranks Colorado on list of top states for business

Gov. Bill Ritter today praised a new report that names Colorado to CNBC’s prestigious annual list of America’s Top States for Business, which ranks Colorado No. 5 and specifically cites the state’s "new energy economy."

CNBC analyzed 40 factors in 10 broad categories. Colorado’s highest rankings came in the categories of business friendliness (Colorado ranked 5t) and quality of life (Colorado ranked 7t).

The report said Colorado’s new energy economy was one of the biggest reasons the state climbed to No. 5 from No. 7 last year. “Colorado has been actively courting what it calls the New Energy Economy, like wind and solar, and the efforts are paying off.”

In all, Colorado scored among the top 15 states in six of the 10 categories, including overall economic climate, access to capital, workforce quality and state support for technology and innovation.

“This is great news for Colorado,” said Gov. Ritter, who was in Spain this week on an energy economic-development mission. “It’s another positive sign that our aggressive efforts to build a New Energy Economy by attracting local, national and international companies and expanding our employment base are paying off. One thing that separates Colorado from other states is our unique combination of intellectual capital and entrepreneurial Western spirit. The CNBC recognition is an acknowledgment of that.”

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Central Bancorp completes Van Gilder deal

Central Bancorp Inc. completed its purchase of Van Gilder Insurance Corp.'s Colorado Springs office on July 1, making its CB Insurance unit one of the largest locally owned insurance brokers in the Colorado Springs area.

"This acquisition creates tremendous opportunities, both for our firm and our new insurance clients," said Steve Schneider, president of CB Insurance. "We are anxious to move forward with our business strategies now that this acquisition is closed, and will continue to add resources and talent to better serve clients of CB Insurance and the other divisions within Central Bancorp."

The Van Gilder office employed 23 and last year generated $3 million in commissions on premiums totaling about $35 million. The local operation was founded as Bennett-Shellenberger Co. in 1890, was acquired by Norm Coleman in 1959 and was sold to Van Gilder in 1998. Central also owns mortgage, title insurance, wealth management and trust operations and plans to open a bank later this month.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Colorado ranks high in biotech, science

Colorado ranks among the 20 best places for the biotechnology industry, according to Genome Technology magazine, a speciality print and online publication for molecular biology scientists, professionals and engineers.
The publication listed the Denver-Boulder area as one of nine emerging biotechnology regions along with Alabama, New York, Tennessee, Texas, the St. Louis-Kansas City area; Oslo, Norway; China and India. The 11 established regions included Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Research Triangle, N.C., Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ontario, Canada and Singapore.
The Denver-Boulder area was selected, Genome Technology said in its June issue, because of its 10,000 biotechnology workers, a $150 million expansion planned by Amgen Inc. in Boulder and the recent conversion of the former Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center to a bioscience business park that includes the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Children’s Hospital and a biotechnology incubator.
Colorado also scored a fourth-place ranking from Families USA’s Global Health Initiative among states generating the most economic activity per dollar of funding from the National Institutes of Health. Colorado generated $787 million in business activity from $336 million in NIH funding, or $2.34 for each dollar of funding from the agency, which ranked the state behind Texas, California and Georgia.
The Milken Institute’s State Technology and Science Index ranked Colorado third after Massachusetts and Maryland, based on 77 indicators ranging from research and development, risk capital, entrepreneurial infrastructure to human capital investment, technology and science work force and technology concentration and dynamism. Colorado previously was ranked third in 2004 and second in 2002 by the institute.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Allegory Marketing sold

Allegory Marketing, one of Colorado Springs largest advertising agencies, is changing hands as founder and president Tom DeNardin sells the company to Victoria Stone, president of ACTUATE Inc. and former marketing director for Todays Homes.
Terms for the deal were not disclosed.
Stone is merging Allegory and ACTUATE and will name the combined company Allegory Advertising. Allegory’s 10 employees and two contractors are staying with the agency. Allegory’s clients include the Double Eagle Hotel and Casino, Ferguson Pontiac Buick GMC, Famous Dave’s, Todays Homes and Sunshine Car Audio.
DeNardin, who started Allegory in 2001, said the time was right for him to move on.
“Everything seemed to fall together,” DeNardin said. “I had some other opportunities to sell the business, but some of them were more interested in our clients and less interested in our employees.”
Stone said she’s worked with Allegory as a client and that she and DeNardin have similar philosophies for developing advertising campaigns, which should make for a smooth transition.
“The strength that Allegory has is that they’ve always done strategy-based marketing,” she said. “We look at every client as a clean slate. I think that’s the power behind why Allegory is poised for growth in a down economy.”
DeNardin said the deal had been in the works for a month and that he and Stone told the firm’s employees about the sale on July 1.
“When I started talking to the staff, I started feeling a little bit of seller’s remorse,” he said. “It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I know the company is in good hands.”
DeNardin, 51, said he will continue to do consulting and business plans and he also hopes to move into teaching.
“It’s been a great ride,” he said. “Most of the clients, they’ve turned into very good friends and to me that’s more important than anything.”

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Airline service hobbled by rising fuel prices

High fuel prices could mean major reductions in airline service at the Colorado Springs Airport, according to an analysis published late last month by the Pennsylvania-based Business Travel Coalition.

The group ranked the Springs as one of the 50 large markets most likely to lose some or all air service as a result of higher fuel prices. Among the factors making airports vulnerable to higher prices are proximity to other airports with low-fare service, airline mergers, previous fluctuations in airline service, widespread use of regional jets, service from regional carriers that are at risk of losing their contracts with major airlines.

“The fuel crisis is having an impact beyond the gas pump and is now likely to cause irreparable harm to businesses large and small through a significant reduction in air service,” Kevin Mitchell, chairman and founder of the coalition, said in a news release. “Liquidations at major airlines would have catastrophic effects on the economy, reduce services in cities large and small and impact people in Colorado Springs.”

An earlier study by the group estimated that at current fuel prices, airlines would have to boost fares another 21 percent to 24 percent and cut flight capacity by 18 percent to 20 percent, eliminating between 74,000 and 84,000 jobs.

For more information, go to http://www.businesstravelcoalition.com/

Skyrocketing fuel prices eat mine's profits

Having a hard time dealing with rising fuel prices?

Be glad you’re not trying to pay the fuel bills for Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Co., which operates a fleet of 10 300-ton dump trucks that haul gold ore from its open-pit mine between Cripple Creek and Victor to a nearby crushing facility. Each of the mine’s trucks burn three-quarters of a gallon of diesel fuel a minute, which means each truck uses more than $200 in fuel during an hour of operation. That’s about $50,000 a day for the fleet.

Skyrocketing fuel prices have increased the cost of producing gold at the mine by a third during the past year, said Larry Newcomer, general manager of Cripple Creek & Victor Gold. Every $1 increase in the cost of a barrel of oil increases the cost of producing an ounce of gold at the mine by about $1. That means the cost of gold being mined now will be more than $400 an ounce when it completes the production process in two years.

That wouldn’t be so bad if the mine’s parent company, AngoGold Ashanti Ltd., hadn’t sold off much of the mine’s production under hedging contracts at $450-$550 an ounce. That means gold produced at more than $400 an ounce will barely produce a profit and might even result in a loss depending on how much higher fuel prices climb in coming months.

“Four years ago, we were paying 85 cents a gallon for fuel and now we paying $4 a gallon. The price of gold hasn’t kept up,” Newcomer said, noting gold prices have gone up a little more than a third as fast as fuel prices during the same period.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

COPT buys Northrop building

Corporate Office Properties Trust, a Maryland-based real estate company, added to its local holdings Tuesday by paying $23.2 million for the Northrop Grumman building that opened in May in the Cresterra business park at the Colorado Springs Airport.
The 124,305-square-foot building, southeast of Powers Boulevard and the Milton E. Proby Parkway, houses 400 of Northrop Grumman’s 1,150 local employees. City officials selected Corporate Office Properties Trust last year as the business park’s master developer.
The company now owns 15 office buildings in the Springs, totaling 1 million square feet. It also is building three office buildings with 232,000 square feet, developing two others with 235,000 square feet and owns 192 acres that could accommodate 2.5 million square feet of space.

State releases new data on hospital infections

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has released new data on hospital-acquired infections for Memorial and Penrose Hospitals. The information is available online at www.cdphe.state.co.us/hf/PatientSafety/HFAI/index.html.
The semi-annual bulletin shows the first six months of data collected from a new reporting system established by a state law approved in 2006. Hospital-acquired infections, infections that occur during or after treatment for a different condition, usually occur when medical procedures such as a central line, a type of catheter placed near the heart, introduce infections into the bloodstream.
Memorial Health System’s central hospital and Penrose-St. Francis’s Health Services’ central hospital, the only two listed in the bulletin, both ranked average. Additional reports will be released later this year.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Simtek tells shareholders "process is still very much alive"

More than two months after Simtek Corp. turned down a $36.4 million acquisition offer from Cypress Semiconductor Corp., stockholders are still waiting for news about what comes next.
Simtek Chairman Robert Pearson told stockholders at the company’s June 19 annual meeting in Colorado Springs that “the process is still very much alive and we are actively working with our (financial) advisers,” but declined to answer questions.
The company released a statement last week that it continues to “explore various strategic alternatives in order to maximize long-term value for stockholders” and it continues to “actively work on such alternatives with our advisors,” but offered no specifics on what those alternatives might be or when it might choose one of the options.
Simtek hired Palo Alto, Calif.-based Pagemill Partners LLC in February to evaluate its “strategic options.”
Simtek turned down a $2.20-a-share offer in April from Cypress, one of its largest shareholders, saying it “significantly undervalued” the company.
Simtek’s stock fell Tuesday to a five-year low of $1.70 before rallying back to $1.86 on Wednesday

CSHP names new CEO

Deborah L. Chandler has been named executive vice president and chief executive officer of Colorado Springs Health Partners, the city’s largest physician-owned practice said Monday. Chandler previously served as chief executive of Anchor Health Centers in Florida. CSHP has 90 physicians and 11 locations.

Longtime banker on way back to Springs

Four years after he sold First National Bank of Colorado Springs to a Nebraska holding company, Rob Alexander is on his way back into the Colorado Springs banking industry.
State Bank of Bartley, a Nebraska institution of which Alexander is chairman and co-owner, is acquiring one of two Colorado banking charters of the Evans-based Bank of Choice as a way for it to expand to Colorado Springs, where it will operate as Stockmens Bank, Alexander said.
The move still requires approval by Nebraska and federal regulators, but could happen in as few as three months, he said.
State Bank, which has $35 million in assets, already operates a lending office with five employees in downtown Colorado Springs and will convert it into a full-service banking branch if it gets the required approvals, Alexander said. The bank would focus mostly on business lending, he said.
An investor group led by Alexander sold First National to Nebraska-based Pinnacle Bancorp Inc., which operates in Colorado as Bank of Colorado, after making it El Paso County’s fastest-growing financial institution during the previous five years.
He began his banking career at what is now Chase Bank and later started a lending firm he eventually sold to Wells Fargo & Co

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Russell 3000 shuffles index

After bouncing in and out of the Russell 3000 index at least twice in recent years, Colorado Springs-based Westmoreland Coal Co. will be back in the popular stock market barometer as of June 27, based on preliminary calculations.
Westmoreland and Springs-based Century Casinos Inc. were deleted last year from the index and instead became part of the Russell Microcap Index. Locally based Spectranetics Corp. remains part of the Russell 3000 index. Among other local public companies, Golden Cycle Gold Corp. will temporarily join the Russell Microcap index until it is acquired June 30 by South African mining giant AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., while Simtek Corp. will be dropped from the Microcap index. Ramtron International Corp. remains part of the Microcap index.
The changes are part of an annual reshuffling of the indices, which include the nation’s largest public companies based on the total value of each company’s stock. The Russell 3000 index includes the nation’s 3,000 largest public companies, while the Microcap index includes the smallest 1,000 members of the Russell 3000 and 1,000 additional smaller companies. Tacoma, Wash.-based Russell Investment Group will post revised lists of companies it is adding and dropping from the indices on at www.russell.com/Indexes/membership/Reconstitution/default.asp.
Russell’s indices are used as benchmarks for more than $4 trillion in investments.

Fourth of July travel stable, AAA says

High gas prices apparently won’t keep people from traveling over the Fourth of July holiday. According to projections released Thursday by the American Automobile Association, a scant 0.8 percent fewer people in the western states were planning to travel this year compared with 2007. In total, AAA is projecting 10.48 million people in the West will leave home for the holiday. Nationwide, the agency predicts travel will be down 1.3 percent.
Those figures come despite climbing gas prices. AAA figures that a round trip between Colorado Springs and Denver will cost $19.14 this year, compared with $14.97 last year

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Spectranetics makes Fortune list

Spectranetics Corp. has made Fortune magazine’s annual list for a third time - a list of the nation’s fastest-growing small companies published by its small business sibling rather than the better-known list of 500 largest U.S. corporations.
The Colorado Springs-based medical laser manufacturer ranked 33rd in the Fortune Small Business 100 list published in the magazine’s July-August issue. Spectranetics ranked 62nd last year and 56th in 2006 among public companies with revenues of less than $200 million and a stock price of more than a $1 compiled by Zacks Investment Research Inc.
Spectranetics reported growth of more than 30 percent annually for the past three years in revenue, profit and total return to shareholders. The rankings are based on a composite of where the company ranks in growth of all three measures. No other Colorado Springs companies made the list. Dynamic Materials Corp. of Boulder, Health Grades Inc. of Golden, Mesa Laboratories Inc. of Lakewood and Royal Gold Inc. of Denver were ranked sixth, 35th, 62nd and 89th, respectively.
East Aurora, N.Y.-based aviation-parts manufacturer Astronics Corp., one of 24 manufacturing firms on the list, was ranked first.

Sportique will putter across downtown

Later this year, Sportique Scooters is moving from its current location at 431 E. Pikes Peak Ave. to a spot on S. Tejon St., across from McCabe's. Employees at Sportique said they'd planned to make the move sooner, but skyrocketing scooter sales - driven by $4 a gallon gasoline - will probably push the move off 'til the colder months.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A "bigg" grand opening

Li'l Biggs is celebrating its recent opening with a grand opening celebration Friday and Saturday. Visitors will get free entrance to Little Biggtown, $5 in arcade credits and a free slice of pizza and a drink. Donations of $3 per person are encouraged; the money goes to the nonprofit America's Family.

Li'l Biggs, a restaurant and fun center geared toward kids 10 and younger, is the latest brand extension for Mr. Biggs Family Fun Center. It's at the northeast corner of Powers and Stetson Hills boulevards. Hours for the grand opening are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Active adult community might be headed to Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs might be getting a maintenance-free housing community for 55-and-older residents. Ohio-based Epcon Communities, which has developed similar projects in 30 states, plans to launch construction of an 80- to 120-home neighborhood in the Springs in 2009. The project isn't a done deal, yet; Epcon looks for franchisees to develop most of its properties, and is still talking to potential owner-operators, said Dan Noreen, business development manager for Epcon Franchising. Also, Epcon is scouting sites for the neighborhood, he said. Based on its research, however, Epcon targeted the Springs because it has an increasingly older population that doesn't move around a lot, and solid incomes to support the purchase of Epcon homes, Noreen said. Epcon homes essentially are middle-range properties -- nicer than starter homes, but not in the luxury class, he said. Homes would range in size from about 1,100 to 1,800 square feet. Prices vary from city to city, but Colorado Springs' homes would start under $200,000, Noreen said. Each Epcon neighborhood has a community center and pool, among other amenities, he added. More information: http://www.epconcommunities.com/ and http://www.epconfranchising.com/.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Panera Bread teams up to help Care and Share Food Bank

Panera Bread is rolling out a line of new breakfast sandwiches, and, in the process, hopes to help fill up the shelves at the Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado. Starting Friday, June 20, Panera Bread will launch a line of grilled breakfast sandwiches in Colorado Springs and around the state. Through June 29, Panera customers who donate a non-perishable breakfast item to Care and Share will receive a free breakfast sandwich. Panera has three varieties of its new breakfast sandwiches: egg and cheese; bacon, egg and cheese; and sausage, egg and cheese. Breads of the World, a Panera franchisee, owns and operates 22 Panera Bread locations in Colorado, including four in Colorado Springs. More information: www.panera-colorado.com.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Watch out for phone scam using Wal-Mart's name

The Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado is warning local residents not to fall for a new phone scam that uses the Wal-Mart name. According to the BBB, someone who identifies himself as "Victor Vasquez" and claiming to represent “Wal-Mart Computer Systems” has called area consumers to tell them they've won a second prize of $9.8 million in a Wal-Mart sweepstakes. To claim their winnings, consumers are told to pay an insurance fee of $1,600 via Western Union, which "Victor" says would pay the cost of shipping the prize via United Parcel Serve and having it delivered by a U.S. Marshal. In one case, the insistent "Victor" suggested a consumer obtain a loan or borrow money to send him the money. The BBB says “Victor” actually is a con artist calling from Jamaica and the Wal-Mart name is being used fraudulently to lend credibility to the scheme. Wal-Mart is not running a sweepstakes or using the name Wal-Mart Computer Systems, according to the BBB. To protect themselves, consumers should remember that legitimate lotteries and sweepstakes don't charge insurance or processing fees to claim prizes. Also, don't fall for the use of familiar names, such as Wal-Mart. If in doubt, consumers should ask for contact information and verify it with a reputable source. And, never send money to strangers using a money transfer service. More information: 636-1155 or bbb.org.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Local tanning spot closes, another offers customer help

Electric Beach Tanning Salon has closed up shop, according to a sign posted on the 57443 N. Academy Blvd. site.

“Due to a legal disagreement with our landlord we are forced to move our salon to a new location,” reads the sign. “...We have all your contact information and will be mailing you our new location info.” Meanwhile, Electric Beach's phone number has been disconnected and neighboring businesses said confused tanning customers have stopped by looking for answers about the salon's disappearance.

Southwestern Commercial Properties, which owns the property, declined to comment due to company policy.

Sun Spot Atlantis, another local tanning salon, has offered to help Electric Beach's clients. Sun Spot will honor the membership of any customer who brings in current contract from Electric Beach Tanning Salon, said owner Ric Rooney. At 6,000 square feet, Sun Spot Atlantis is the largest tanning salon in the state, Rooney said, and offers the same services as Electric Beach tanning.

Sun Spot Atlantis is located at 4310 Austin Bluffs Parkway, 531-6000.

Regional business partnership grows

A regional business alliance that hopes to foster better communication and speak with a common voice on business issues has added another member.
The Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce agreed earlier this month to become the latest group to join the Pikes Peak Regional Business Partnership, which was formed a year ago, said Dave Csintyan, chief executive officer of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.
Other members include the Springs Chamber, the Hispanic and black chambers, Experience Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak, the Tri-Lakes Chamber, the Fountain Valley Chamber, the Southern Colorado Women's Chamber and the Eastern Plains Chamber.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Record year for Colorado tourism

Colorado had its best season ever for tourism, both in terms of the number of visitors (28 million) and the amount of money they spent ($9.8 billion), according to the annual Longwoods International Colorado Travel Year 2007 Report released today by the Colorado Tourism Office.

In addition to the raw numbers, Colorado's share of national tourism also grew, from 2.35 percent in 2006 to 2.5 percent in 2007.

Tourism officials say the gains can be attributed to the state legislature boosting the state's marketing budget from $5.5 million to $19 million last year, although the total number of visits to the state has been on an upward trajectory for several years.

Colorado Springs was the state's second-most popular tourist attraction, behind Denver, but ahead of Estes Park and Boulder. The Springs drew 11 percent of out-of-state visitors.

Porchlight launch delayed

Porchlight Communications' plan to launch video service in some parts of Colorado Springs has been delayed to July 1. The company had planned to begin service June 16.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Memorial workers comp audit shows program being conducted properly

Though city auditor Jeff Litchfield found nine deficiencies in an audit of Memorial Health System's Workers' Compensation Fund from May 2005 through December 2006, the program is being handle properly, he said.
"They used proper underwriting techniques and claims' procedures," he said.
Released April 30, the audit found such deficiences as:
The 2006 Annual Review was not filed within 60 days of the permit anniversary date.
A 2006 quarterly analysis of the Worker's Compensation Reserve was insufficient, with no reconcilation between claims' payments in the administrative software and the general ledger.
The policies and procedures manual was out of date.
A lack of controls and maintenance of claimant files, with missing documentation and late filings.

Colorado Springs taking flight

United Airlines' Hemisphere Magazine will be producing a 30-page special section on Colorado Springs in its September issue. The section will look at the city's economy, tourism, lifestyle and culture.

Officials from the magazine's publisher, Pace Communications, were in town Tuesday night for a reception at the Fine Arts Center to kick off the project.

They said the special section, which the magazine produces quarterly, will reach more than 2 million readers on United's planes, plus it will remain on the magazine's Web site for a year.

Cheyenne Mountain Resort named a best place to work

Cheyenne Mountain Resort on Colorado Springs' southwest side has been named one of the "Best Companies to Work for in Colorado" for 2008. The resort is one of 15 companies in Colorado that made the list this year in the large companies category -- 250 employees or more. The award was made by Best Companies to Work for in Colorado, a collaborative effort whose partners include the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Colorado State Council; six local SHRM chapters; Jobing.com; Colorado Biz Magazine; and the Best Companies Group. Cheyenne Mountain Resort was the lone hotel among 2008 winners. “We believe
that when you treat each and every person on the staff as a valued member of a team, who has an important role to play and is rewarded for hard work and achievements, then not only are you going to have employees who are happier but more loyal and effective,” said Laura Neumann, vice president and general manager of Cheyenne Mountain Resort. The Best Companies honors were based on a survey that examined participating employers' policies, practices and demographics and solicited comments from randomly selected employees. More information on Best Companies to Work for in Colorado: http://www.coshrm.org/. The Cheyenne Mountain Resort covers 217 acres and includes 316 rooms and suites, 40,000 square feet of meeting and event space, a golf course, five swimming pools and 18 tennis courts, among other amenities.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Scandinavian footwear store opens at Park Meadows Mall

ECCO recently opened a store in Park Meadows Mall, 8401 Park Meadows Center Drive in Lone Tree.

The store, one of 30 "partnership" stores in the United States, is designed around the company's Scandinavian heritage and uses an arena and gallery approach to showcase shoes for men, women and children. Selections include dress, casual and performance footwear, along with golf shoes.
Hours are Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Founded in 1963 by Karl Toosbuy in southern Denmark, ECCO has more than 11,000 employees worldwide and remains family owned, with headquarters in Tonder, Denmark.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Board members being hit up for donations, survey says

More than half of nonprofits require financial contributions from board members, a trend expected to become increasingly more commonplace, according to a study released earlier this year by Grant Thornton LLP, an accounting, tax and business advisory company.
Results of the fifth annual National Board Governance Survey for Not-for-Profit Organizations show that 54 percent of nonprofit organizations that have an annual budget of less than $20 million expect board members to contribute $1,000 or less annually, 20 percent expect a contribution of $1,001 to $2,500, 12 percent a contribution of $2,501 to $5,000, and 14 percent a contribution of $5,001 or more.
The study concludes that more organizations use a "give or get" policy for board members, in which they're asked to contribute personally and/or solicit contributions from their friends and contacts in order to remain on the board.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kaiser awards local grants

Kaiser Permanente approved nearly 300 Community Benefit grants and donations totaling $19 million nationwide in the first quarter of this year, the nonprofit health care insurer said.
Locally, Kaiser awarded nearly $100,000 in the first grant cycle of the year to:
Urban Peak's female health program for teens
Harbor House
El Paso County Medical Society Prescription Assistance Solution Service
Pikes Peak Hospice
Ronald McDonald House
Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center
Inside/Out's STD/HIV prevention program
Head Start's childhood obesity program
Girl Scouts' local health and wellness intiative
Colorado Springs Child Nursery Centers' health and nutrition program
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and the Sheriff's Department to purchase electronic defibrillators.

And then there were four...

Four casinos allowing smoking, that is. First came the Wild Card in Black Hawk, then Bronco Billy's in Cripple Creek, then, on Saturday, the Midnight Rose in Cripple Creek (but not the other two-thirds of the Triple Crown casinos) and, on Monday, the Double Eagle lit up.

Several other casinos the Gazette spoke with said that if local or county government officials don't take any action against the casinos by the end of the week, they'll bring back smoking, too. Everyone but the Wildwood may be smoking by the end of the month.

It's interesting that no other Black Hawk or Central City casinos have followed the Wild Card's lead.

City officials in Cripple Creek say they don't have the resources to enforce the state's anti-smoking laws. The district attorney's office says they haven't received a complaint and won't investigate until they do. The Teller County sheriff hasn't weighed in yet. The Legislature almost certainly won't do anything until the 2009 session, and even if they agreed on a law, it probably wouldn't take effect until the middle of next year.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A new president at Vladimir

No, not Putin. Vladimir Jones - the agency-formerly-known-as-Praco, today named Meredith Vaughan as president.

Agency founder Nechie Hall, Vaughan's mother, keeps the CEO title.

Vaughan had been the vice president for insight at the 38-year-old advertising and public relations company, overseeing strategic direction for clients. She's worked for Praco/Vladimir Jones since 2000.

If you're living under a business news rock, Praco, the Springs' oldest, most successful ad agency, changed its name to the more evocative Vladimir Jones on June 2.

HBA to sponor housing overview in July

Metrostudy, a Houston-based housing market research firm, will provide an overview of Colorado Springs' new home market at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 16, at the Doubletree Hotel World Arena, 1775 E Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., on the Springs' south side. The cost is $20 and the event is limited to members of the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, which is sponsoring the event. More information: 592-1800, or go to http://www.cshba.com/ and click on "education events."

Mayor Rivera to deliver state-of-the-city address to chamber

Want to know what's good about living in Colorado Springs? Ask Mayor Lionel Rivera (right); he loves to talk about the city. Rivera will deliver his annual state of the city address at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 17, at the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce luncheon, to be held at the downtown Antlers Hilton Hotel, 2 S. Cascade Ave. Rivera is expected to discuss the city's progress and problems, successes and challenges. The event is typically attended by several hundred business people and community leaders. Tickets are $30 for chamber members and $40 for non-members. More information or to purchase tickets: 635-1551, or go to http://www.coloradospringschamber.org/ and click on "calendar of events."

Alamosa, gateway to Colorado?

On the biz e-mail this morning:

"Colorado Opens an Official Welcome Center in Alamosa
Elected officials, community leaders, the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) and CTO Board of Directors will celebrate the opening of the State’s newest Welcome Center in Alamosa with a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house.
WHO: The grand opening will include remarks from
· State Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass)
· Kathy Rogers, Alamosa Mayor Pro Tem
· Rob Perlman, Chairman of the Colorado Tourism Office Board of Directors
· Kim McNulty, Director of the Colorado Tourism Office
WHEN: Monday, June 9, 2008
Ribbon Cutting: 10:00 a.m.
Open House: 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: Colorado Welcome Center at Alamosa
601 State Avenue, downtown Alamosa

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Briargate goes to the dogs

It's time for Bark at Briargate, and we don't mean griping about the quintessential suburban community on Colorado Springs' north side. The Promenade Shops at Briargate, the open-air, lifestyle shopping center southeast of Colorado Highway 83 and Briargate Barkway, er, Parkway, will host its third annual Bark at Briargate from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 14. It's a chance for dog owners to check out the latest pet foods, watch training and obedience demonstrations and talk to groomers and pet salon operators. Shoppers are invited to bring their dogs, while dog-less patrons will have a chance to adopt one, too. Several kennels and other pet-related businesses will be on hand for the event. More information or to participate: 265-6264 or http://www.thepromenadeshopsatbriargate.com/.

First Remodeled Homes Tour takes place June 14-15

The Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, which conducts a Parade of Homes annually to show off new houses and building techniques, is putting the spotlight on remodeling. The HBA will conduct its first-ever Remodeled Homes Tour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., June 14-15, at 17 home sites in the Colorado Springs area. HBA officials want to promote remodeling, which industry experts say includes everything from a fresh coat of paint, to finishing a basement, to making over a kitchen or bathroom, to a home addition. Tickets are $8 for adults and are good for all homes on both days of the event. A portion of ticket proceeds goes to HBA Cares, the organization's charity. More information on home locations and tickets: 592-1800 or http://www.cshba.com/.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Pinnocol pays dividends

Pinnacol Assurance, Colorado’s state-owned workers’ compensation insurer, paid $55 million in dividends in May to 58,000 businesses it insures.
The payments went to 92 percent of Pinnacol’s policyholders, based on their safety records and claims costs. The dividend is the fourth consecutive annual payment to policyholders; Pinnacol has paid $227 million in dividends since 2005.
Pinnacol paid $4.48 million in dividends to 5,372 businesses in El Paso County. The average dividend check in the county was about $830.
“Issuing a general dividend for the fourth straight year is a continuing sign of our policyholders’ commitment to maintaining safe workplaces and to Pinnacol’s financial health and stability,” said Ken Ross, Pinnacol’s president and chief executive.
Pinnacol cut rates 16.5 percent earlier this year because of lower-than-expected claims, its third consecutive annual rate reduction.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Verizon adds towers

Verizon Wireless customers in southeast Colorado Springs and seven other Colorado cities will be more likely to answer yes when asked “Can you hear me now?”
The company added a new cell tower site near Academy Boulevard and South Chelton Road along with seven others in Boulder, Denver, Greeley, Lakewood, Longmont, Northglenn and Thornton in response to rising demand for wireless voice, multimedia and Internet access.
The nation’s largest wireless provider, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group Plc, spent $102 million last year adding cell tower sites in Colorado.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Two additions to Briargate shops

Two new stores have opened at The Promenade Shops at Briargate. Bath & Body Works opened May 26, offering shower gels, lotions, candles and accessories. Colorado Co-Op, a contemporary lifestyle store, opened its doors Sunday. It's the second location for Colorado Co-Op; there's also a downtown shop.

It's alive... ALIVE!

The agency-formerly-known-as-PRACO's new Web site is up at http://www.vladimirjones.com/.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Jones, Vladimir Jones - it's for real

Praco is no longer the largest, most successful advertising agency in Colorado Springs.

It’s now Vladimir Jones.

Who, or what, is that?

After 38 years, Praco is changing its name. And it’s changing it to Jones, Vladimir Jones.

Praco founder and CEO Nechie Hall and other agency officials could not be reached on Friday.

In a press release, which was scheduled to be delivered on Monday, June 2, Hall said “I felt strongly that it was time to make some mammoth changes, including moving on from the 38-year-old name that we chose when we founded the company.”

The press release said the name change was part of a change in corporate philosophy aimed at staying relevant and fresh.

Hall started Praco, short for Public Relations and Advertising Co., in 1970 with her husband, Jim. From a mom-and-pop operation, the company has grown to become one of the largest advertising companies in the state, with nearly 80 employees and $53.5 million in billings in 2007.

Praco’s competitors and clients, were surprised by the change. Shocked might not be too strong a word.

“I think it’s a bold move and whatever the reason is, we certainly hope the best for them,” said Bernard Sandoval, owner of Sandia, an advertising and marketing firm.

“Nechie doesn’t do anything unless she feels it’s strategically correct,” said Tom DeNardin, owner of Allegory Marketing. “I can tell you, if they’re changing it, they’re not doing it off a whim.”

Experience Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak, the convention and visitors bureau, contracts with Praco for its print advertising and will spend $600,000 with the agency this year. Lisa Amend, Experience’s public relations manager, said she had received mysterious e-mails and postcards from “Vladimir Jones” promising an announcement on June 2, but didn’t know about the connection to Praco.

“Praco has always been a name to be reckoned with in Colorado Springs,” Amend said. “Since the agency has such longevity and community respect, we will be excited to see how it will evolve under the new identity.”

The change has evidently been in the works for some time. The press release said employees were told about the change on May 16 and given a booklet dubbed “The Tao of Vladimir Jones,” which includes nuggets of wisdom such as, “Don’t do anything without understanding why.”

The Internet domain name vladimirjones.comwas registered with GoDaddy.com on March 19. On Friday, the Web site led to a placeholder page that said only, “If you have an exciting mind, the circus never leaves town.”

Praco is keeping up with the Vladimir Joneses

A press release from Colorado Springs ad agency PRACO announced the 38-year-old company had changed its name to... Vladimir Jones.

"I felt strongly that it was time to make some mammoth changes, including moving on from the 38-year-old name that we chose when we founded the company in our early twenties," PRACO founder Nechie Hall said in the release.

The release came with a booklet dubbed "The Tao of Vladimir Jones" filled with nuggets of wisdom such as, "Relevance is even more important than really good photography" and "If it's never been done before, there may be a reason."

Pithy, to be sure, but it should be noted that they're still answering the phones with "PRACO."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

U.S. Bank branch celebrates new lanes

The U.S. Bank branch at 3525 Hartsel Drive has two new drive-up lanes. People who open a U.S. Bank checking account during the grand opening celebration next week, June 2 through June 6, will receive a $10 King Soopers gas card while supplies last. Visitors to the branch also can register to win a summer prize pack including a gas barbecue grill and a $50 King Soopers gift card. The branch will hold a free barbecue from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. June 6.

Drive-up hours are 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays. Lobby hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. weekends and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Colorado Springs home prices down in the first quarter

Colorado Springs' median home prices dropped 1.6 percent to $208,900 in the first quarter of 2008 when compared with the same period a year ago, according to recent figures released by the National Association of Realtors. The Springs fared better than some other cities in the state, according to the NAR; Denver's first-quarter median home prices fell 6.6 percent to $223,500 and Boulder's prices declined 4 percent to $355,700. To see the entire list, go to www.realtor.org/research/research/ehspage, click on "metropolitan area prices" and follow the appropriate links.

Four local dealerships participate in Chrysler's $2.99 a gallon gas promotion

Four local dealerships have joined Chrysler's "Let's Refuel America" promotion: Lithia Colorado Springs Jeep-Chrysler, Perkins Motor Co., The Faricy Boys and Colorado Springs Dodge.

Here's how it works: With the purchase of an eligible new Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge vehicles, buyers can receive a gas card that immediately lowers the price of gas to $2.99 a gallon -- and keeps it at that price for three years.

The offer is good through June 2 and is available on a wide range of vehicles, including new compacts, crossovers, minivans and pickup trucks. The cards work at eligible gas stations, up to 87 regular octane, E85 or diesel fuel.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

They say expressway, we say parkway

At the risk of being picky, why can't some large, out-of-town corporations get street names and other landmarks accurate when they're talking about Colorado Springs? A few months ago, Costco Wholesale Club, based in suburban Seattle, described the location of its first Colorado Springs store as Colorado Springs East -- a location that, like Colorado Springs North and Colorado Springs South, doesn't exist. Last week, Oregon-based Hollywood Theaters announced the opening of its new, 14-screen movie theater complex on the Springs' far north side and described its location as "Interstate 25 and Interquest Boulevard." Well, no, it's InterQuest Parkway -- and you can capitalize the "Q" in InterQuest while you're at it. This month, aerospace giant Northrop Grumman notified the news media of a ribbon cutting for its new office building "east of the Powers Boulevard and Milton Proby Expressway." Some people might drive as if it's an expressway, but, as a photo (above) from its April 2006 dedication shows, it's really Milton E. Proby Parkway. Everybody makes mistakes, of course. But let's just be glad that folks at these companies don't quit their day jobs to become map makers.