October 9, 2023

Pikes Peak Region Quality Economic Development Council Founders Recognized as Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC 2023 Trailblazers of Economic Development

Pictured: Johnna Reeder Kleymeyer with Trailblazers of Economic Development Award winners, David Sunderland and Steve Chuck. Bruce Shepard was recognized posthumously.

The Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC has awarded the first Trailblazers of Economic Development Award to David Sunderland, Steve Schuck, and posthumously to Bruce Shepard for their visionary strategic plan, created over 50 years ago to affect economic development and establishing the organization that helped bring new businesses to the Pikes Peak region, creating thousands of jobs throughout the 1970s and 80s. The Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC announced the Award at its Annual Gala held on October 7, attended by over 500 people.

Traditionally, the Business Citizen of the Year Award is announced to recognize an outstanding individual’s contributions to the community. However, the Trailblazers of Economic Development Award was conferred in honor of the tenacious efforts and extraordinary achievements of the three entrepreneurs whose work has helped shape today’s economic development agenda, contributing to the economic prosperity and opportunities of the Pike Peak Region.

“Dave, Steve, and Bruce are visionaries whose business initiatives and love for Colorado Springs will continue to impact our region for generations. Their economic development roadmap, from over half a century ago, is alive today in the tremendous work done by the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC to create economic competitiveness in our region, support business growth and innovation, and create jobs that support local families,” said Johnna Reeder Kleymeyer, President & CEO, for Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC.

Worried that the Colorado Springs economy was not diversified at the time, the three businessmen co-founded the Quality Economic Development Council, the forerunner of today’s Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, in the early 1970s to expand the sectors of the economy, from just a composition of military and tourism, to encompass such new employers as hi-tech firms. The inaugural strategic economic development plan designed over 50 years ago to leverage growth around military expansion, from the U.S. Air Force Academy to NORAD to Fort Carson, continues to influence present-day economic development. Picking up the baton, the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC has spearheaded strategic initiatives to spur growth in the Pikes Peak Region. Through a recent study by Newmark, the data mapped three key sectors that drive regional economic development, including Aerospace and Defense, Cybersecurity and Software Development, and Advanced Manufacturing. In the past 20 months, the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC announced 16 economic development projects, creating over 2,600 jobs and over $2 billion in capital investment. The Quality Economic Development Council and the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC represent the power of the past and the force of the future.

Sunderland, Schuck, and Shepard also invested in and pioneered various economic development projects in academia, real estate, and philanthropy.

The Pikes Peak Region boasts a strong and diverse economy and a thriving environment that supports business innovation and growth. Colorado Springs has more than 200 space, aerospace, and defense companies, many of which work in government and the commercial sector. Additionally, the city is strong in advanced manufacturing, cyber and software technology, healthcare, and tourism, which helps keep the economy diversified, resilient, and strong.

Incubators and accelerators such as Exponential Impact and Catalyst Campus help rejuvenate and insulate the Pikes Peak Region economy through resources that foster the growth of entrepreneurial startup companies and early startup technology research projects, influencing competitiveness.

Being cognizant of the importance of venture capital programs, the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC presented the Company of the Year Award to Catalyst Campus for creating an ecosystem that cultivates partnerships and sparks innovation in small businesses and startups in the aerospace and defense industry. The non-profit led 12 community partners recently in securing $941,375 in grants from The U.S. National Science Foundation’s Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) to support the space ecosystem in the Pikes Peak region.

The Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC 2023 Art Pop Gala was organized around National Arts and Humanities Month to recognize the importance of culture and the significance of the Arts sector in the Pikes Peak Region in creating jobs, promoting individual well-being, connecting cultures, highlighting inequities, and making our community economically sound, healthier, and strong.

To celebrate the creative industry, the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC awarded the Cultural Impact Award to Jeresneyka Rose, a local visual artist and community advocate, for her freelance artistry and community activism in housing and feeding the disadvantaged in Southeast Colorado Springs. Her recent projects include the Hillside Hub Oral History & Mural Project with Food to Power, the Panorama Park Tile Art Project in partnership with Pikes Peak Library District and Trust for Public Land, and most recently, the Southwest Loves Southeast Mural, produced in celebration of Southwest Airline’s commitment to Colorado Springs and El Paso County.

Data obtained from the Creative Vitality Index, a proprietary index that measures the impact of the creative economy, shows that creative industries in the Pikes Peak region generated a whopping $2.9 billion in sales in 2021. During the same year, its cultural non-profit industry generated $37.4 million in revenue.