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

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 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

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.