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Error Sector Loss Approaching – Why isn’t our tech sector booming?

Pueblo is being left behind when it comes to the high tech industries. Who’s responsible and how can Pueblo compete?

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From between two desks filled with computer monitors and towers of books with titles like “Mobile Robots”, “Sensor Robots” and “Making Things See” professor Nebojsa Jaksic oversees the growing mechatronics program at Colorado State University- Pueblo, a small gold mine of innovators.>>>

He teaches and works with students in the program to build products that make life easier. Innovations like robotic chair stackers, a solar-powered electric bicycle and robots that could build houses are among the projects Jaksic watched students work on this past year. 

Mechatronics is the combination of mechanical and electronic engineering with the use of computer controls. The program also has the potential to improve the economy in Southern Colorado, as the state is becoming a front-runner for tech companies and start-ups. 

Colorado ranks third in the tech industry when it comes to concentration. In 2012, 162,600 Coloradans were employed in the tech industry, up 600 jobs from 2011, according to the 15th edition of the Cyberstate Report from TechAmerica,. 

The report found that Colorado is sixth in the nation for software publishers, seventh in computer equipment manufacturing and ninth in engineering services. 

Built in Denver, an advocate and “matchmaker” for inventors, investors, academics and creatives of digital technology, reported there were 122 digital tech start-ups in the state. That’s equivalent to launching one start-up every 72 hours. 

Cocoona Technology, a Boulder company that invents and markets natural technologies used for fabric, and Blogfrog, a software publisher specializing in brand building, are just two examples of companies that call the Denver-Boulder area home. 

Mapquest, Otterbox, Photobucket and NewsGator all call Northern Colorado home as well. 

While the Denver-Boulder area is becoming a hub for technology, Pueblo’s economy is still based around manufacturing, as it always has been.  

Jack Rink, president and CEO of the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation, said that even though Pueblo is heavy in manufacturing, the organization is open to bringing more tech companies to Pueblo and encouraging start-ups. 

“Industries tend to attract each other,” Rink said, explaining that businesses tend to “cluster.” Because Pueblo was established as a manufacturing city, other companies have made Pueblo their home, just as tech companies have relocated to Denver because they’ve witnessed other businesses succeed. 

This principle means the industrial culture in Pueblo will likely continue. 

Southern Colorado is also becoming a hotspot for railroad companies that will continue to expand in the near future. This will feed the manufacturing sector and possibly the tech industry, said Rink. 

Both Rink and Jaksic said railroad engineering has become more hi-tech, which could expand the digital culture in Southern Colorado but the railroad industry is highly complex and a much different type of technology than start-ups are. 

This fall CSU-Pueblo will be introducing a master’s program in railroad engineering. When the department looked into adding the degree Jaksic said the Transportation Technology Center and PEDCO were both big supporters. 

“We heavily rely on the railroad industry to help,” Jaksic said. 

TTCI will be providing instructors for the courses, some of the best labs in the country and has even received applications from students wanting to enroll in the program. 

“We’re hoping to bring in more railroad companies,” Jaksic said, adding that responsibility would be on PEDCO. 

As for growing a culture where the tech industry can thrive in Pueblo, Rink said PEDCO engages in several marketing techniques, attends conferences in hopes of attracting businesses to Pueblo and has planned a trip to San Francisco to recruit companies looking to relocate. 

Rink said diversifying the industries is most important. PEDCO would like to bring more healthcare companies to the area as well. 

The question still remains how to encourage start-ups in Southern Colorado. 

Rink said in order to encourage entrepreneurship, four components are needed: an educational feeder system, people who understand technology and business, economic incentives and the ability to network with other people in the same industry. 

To foster start-up companies, there exists little funding, however. In 1984, voters approved the half-cent sales tax and while this money goes to PEDCO, it is used it to “bring primary jobs to the area.” Rules set by city council make being able to qualify for funding difficult for small businesses or start-ups but Rink said there are still opportunities for start-ups.  

“We are happy to help smaller or existing businesses find ways to qualify for funding- and would love to do more of that,” Rink said. 

It’s not that there aren’t resources for start-ups in Pueblo. They’re just greater in the Denver-Boulder area. 

Northern Colorado is rich in venture capitalist groups and incubators, a major reason why the area is becoming known as “silicon mountain.” 

USA Today reported in August that TechStars and Foundry, two Colorado based venture capitalist groups, have over $350 million to help start-ups succeed. 

And while data on the Rocky Mountain Venture Capital Association website shows that just over $90 million has been invested through venture capitalists in the state, Southern Colorado is staying the course.  

“(Pueblo is more focused on) proven technologies,” said Hector Carrasco, Dean of the College of Education, Engineering and Professional Studies at CSU-Pueblo. 

This all goes back to PEDCO’s mission of bringing primary jobs to town. Carrasco said this usually leads to manufacturing jobs because primary jobs make products that are sold outside of the community where they are produced.  

When the focus is on primary jobs and older, proven industries, entrepreneurship seems to be lost. Jaksic doesn’t believe there is incentive for his students to venture into a start-up in the region. 

Jaksic said the majority of his students take internships after graduation rather than founding their own companies or continuing their innovations because starting pay with an established company is good, usually around $60,000 and start-ups aren’t guaranteed to succeed. 

“If (students) have a lot of buy-in in their (senior) project, they’ll continue,” Jaksic said, but this doesn’t seem to be happening, “They don’t want to be hungry,” he added. With nearly all of his students securing jobs, or internships that lead to jobs, after graduation, creating companies just isn’t a part of the picture.  

So how does Southern Colorado retain young, innovative minds that build businesses? 

That answer is still unclear. 

Rink said promoting entrepreneurship is an important aspect to fostering new growth but bringing companies to town that will hire these graduates is key because “many will not choose to take the entrepreneurial route, either because they don’t have a risk-taking personality or they prefer to work for an established firm with the kind of resources and structure they prefer.” 

Joey Cho, assistant professor of computer information systems in the Hasan School of Business at CSU-Pueblo said it is rare for his students to establish their own start-ups, as they are usually looking to find jobs already available in the Pueblo area. 

He said bringing speakers of start-ups to talk to students might inspire them. 

Cities usually tend to attract relocating businesses because they have good infrastructure like airports and a pool of qualified employees, Cho said. 

Carrasco believes cities to the north are booming in technology because of the universities. They’re large and many of the innovators choose to stay in the area because they like the atmosphere. He noted that those universities are much larger than CSU-Pueblo but overtime that should happen in Pueblo too. 

But as Jaksic puts it, “One part is missing. The crazy inventors.”

— by Kara Mason

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Western wild fires continue to rage as authorities worry over July 4 fireworks

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A growing wildfire destroyed more than 100 homes in the Colorado mountains, while other blazes across the parched U.S. West kept hundreds of other homes under evacuation orders and derailed holiday plans.

Authorities announced late Monday that a fire near Fort Garland, about 205 miles (330 kilometers) southwest of Denver, had destroyed 104 homes in a mountain housing development started by multimillionaire publisher Malcolm Forbes in the 1970s. The damage toll could rise because the burn area is still being surveyed.

Tamara Estes’ family cabin, which her parents had built in 1963 using wood and rocks from the land, was among the homes destroyed.

“I think it’s sinking in more now. But we’re just crying,” she said. “My grandmother’s antique dining table and her hutch are gone.”

“It was a sacred place to us,” she added.

Andy and Robyn Kuehler watched flames approach their cabin via surveillance video from their primary residence in Nebraska.

“We just got confirmation last night that the house was completely gone. It’s … a very sickening feeling watching the fire coming towards the house,” the couple wrote in an email Tuesday.

The blaze, labeled the Spring Fire, is one of six large wildfires burning in Colorado and is the largest at 123 square miles (318 square kilometers) — about five times the size of Manhattan. While investigators believe it was started by a spark from a fire pit, other fires, like one that began burning in wilderness near Fairplay, were started by lightning.

Nearly 60 large, active blazes are burning across the West, including nine in New Mexico and six each in Utah and California, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

In Utah, authorities have evacuated 200 to 300 homes because of a growing wildfire near a popular fishing reservoir southeast of Salt Lake City amid hot temperatures and high winds. Several structures have been lost since the fire started Sunday, but it’s unclear how many, said Jason Curry of the Utah Division of Forest, Fire and State Lands.

Darren Lewis and his extended family planned to spend the Fourth of July at a cabin built nearly 50 years ago by his father and uncle in a wilderness area nestled between canyons and near a mountain river.

Instead, Lewis and his family will spend the holiday nervously waiting to hear if a half-century of family memories go up in smoke because of the fire, which has grown to 47 square miles (122 square kilometers).

“There’s a lot of history and memories that go into this cabin,” said Lewis, 44, of Magna, Utah. “The cabin we could rebuild, but the trees that we love would be gone. We’re just hoping that the wind blows the other way.”

Meanwhile, a wind-fueled wildfire in Northern California that continues to send a thick layer of smoke and ash south of San Francisco was threatening more than 900 buildings.

The massive blaze was choking skies with ash and smoke, prompting some officials to cancel Fourth of July fireworks shows and urge people to stay indoors to protect themselves from the unhealthy air.

At least 2,500 people have been told to evacuate as the so-called County Fire continues to spread, said Anthony Brown, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Brown said the blaze, which started Saturday and is surging through rugged terrain northwest of Sacramento, has grown to 113 square miles (294 square kilometers) amid hot and dry weather expected throughout the day. It was 15 percent contained Tuesday.

“The weather is better than what we had over the weekend. But it’s still hampering our efforts and it’s an area of concern,” he said.

So far this year, wildfires have burned 4,200 square miles in the United States, according to the fire center. That’s a bit below last year’s acreage to date — which included the beginning of California’s devastating fire season — but above the 10-year average of 3,600 square miles.

Because of the Independence Day holiday, authorities are also concerned about the possibility of campfires or fireworks starting new fires because of the dry, hot conditions. In Colorado, many communities have canceled firework displays, and a number of federal public lands and counties have some degree of fire restrictions in place, banning things like campfires or smoking outdoors.

In Arizona, large swaths of national forests and state trust land have been closed since before Memorial Day. Some cities have canceled fireworks displays because of extreme fire danger.

In New Mexico, all or part of three national forests remain closed because of the threat of wildfire, putting a damper on holiday camping plans. The forests that are open have strict rules, especially when it comes to fireworks.

“We’re just urging people to use extreme caution,” said Wendy Mason, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico State Forestry Division. “We want people to have fun and enjoy themselves, but we prefer they leave the fireworks shows to the professionals.”

____

Associated Press writers Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City; Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco; Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Arizona; and Alina Hartounian in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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More firefighters called in to rein in Southern Colorado fire

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Crews struggled to rein in a wildfire that was spreading in several different directions Sunday in southern Colorado.
More firefighters were arriving to battle the blaze that has prompted the evacuation of more than 2,000 homes.
“It’s a very challenging fire, I’ll be honest with you, with all the wind changes,” Shane Greer, an incident commander with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team, told residents Sunday.
Authorities said the fire east of Fort Garland was estimated at 64 square miles (166 sq. kilometers) after unpredictable winds pushed the fire both north and south over the weekend.
About 500 firefighters have worked to contain the flames since the fire began Wednesday. A second team arrived in the area Sunday and plans to take over fighting the fire north of Highway 160.
The first team will focus on the area south of the highway.
“Usually with a fire we can chase it … we haven’t been able to chase this because it keeps going in at least three different directions,” Greer said.
Authorities said they began assessing some areas this weekend to track destroyed or damaged structures. But they cautioned that conditions remain dangerous and said they want to be sure that information is correct before notifying property owners.
The fire was expected to remain active and grow in intensity with a warm and dry forecast on Sunday.
Highway 160 remains closed and officials said they could not estimate when it will reopen or when the evacuation orders will end.
The Costilla County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday said a man was being held on suspicion of arson in connection with the fire. It is not clear if Jesper Joergensen, 52, has an attorney.
At Sunday’s public update, officials said they do not believe Joergensen started the fire intentionally.
State emergency management officials reported nine other fires remained active around the state on Sunday. Officials near Durango hoped that a cold front would slow down one of those. The fire began a month ago and is estimated at 77 square miles.
The Durango Herald reported that authorities planned to relocate some crews and equipment to help firefighters guarding communities as the flames moved north.

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Get to Crested Butte Colorado for a wildflower wonderland

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Crested Butte’s wildflowers cast a spell on Michelle Bivens at an early age.

“It goes back to about 6 or 7 years old,” she recalls, when her family camped every summer among the vibrant arrays, library books in hand to identify the great variety that makes the mountain town “the wildflower capital of Colorado.”

With a family of her own, she bounced around from Colorado Springs, to Austin, Texas, to Woodland Park over 22 years. But in 2012, Bivens moved the husband and kids to the valley that stayed in her dreams.

“There’s no place like it,” she says — a truth that comforts wildflower buffs in dry years like these when their backyards don’t yield the typical burst.

Bivens is executive director of the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, the weeklong celebration that starts July 6 and will mean more to flora fanatics of the Pikes Peak region and beyond.

That includes George Cameron. He’s a founder of the Native Plant Society’s local chapter, a retired botany professor who’s more than disappointed by what he’s seeing, or not, in his go-to spot, Stratton Open Space.

“This is the worst possible year,” Cameron says. “I live for the wildflowers every year, and it’s very depressing when they’re not there.”

He treasures higher displays on the mountain, those that grace Elk Park and Devils Playground, for example. And while he has yet to visit with “peak season” approaching, he fears the flowers haven’t had the moisture to bloom in abundance.

“There’s been no snowpack, nothing for them,” he says. “I’m not hopeful it’ll be very good this year.”

But for the fields and hills around Crested Butte, his faith is strong. “That’s because of the soil.”

While Pikes Peak’s granite is hydrophobic, washing away moisture, the earth surrounding the glacier-formed area of Crested Butte is composed of shale that better retains water. Snow melts, and life beneath has a better chance of emerging in all its glory.

Indeed, judging by photos out of Crested Butte, the flowers are popping a week before the festival. Snow melted earlier than usual, Bivens says, and the killing cold winds didn’t strike later.

“The good news is the flowers are coming early, and they didn’t freeze,” she says.

So Jason Odell is gearing up for a visit. The Colorado Springs photographer and teacher plans to soon escort clients to Crested Butte, to capture the scene he’s been scouting for almost two decades.

 

He encourages students to enjoy the landscape, the perfect beauty pairing with iconic Colorado ruggedness, but to also pay attention to details. He wants them to kneel before a flower, to photograph the changing shades of a columbine, the dancing of lupines, the petals splaying from an Indian paintbrush’s stem.

“I think wildflowers are so popular because they’re so ephemeral; they’re only around for a few months or sometimes even a few weeks,” Odell says. “And they have this diversity of color that normally we don’t get in our everyday landscape. … It’s being able to say you saw something totally unique.”

The flowers “pull you out of ordinary existence,” Cameron says. In his Pikes Peak Community College pupils, he sought to instill a reverence for the different species, expressing how they all grow on different terms, some appearing only once in a generation, and how they all can exist in harmony.

“There’s always something new to find out,” says Tom Zeiner, a geologist who’s made wildflowers his focus in retirement.

Naturally, he has a summer home in Crested Butte, where during the festival he leads educational hikes, guiding from the valley floor to the high-alpine zones where the colors change, where it’s common for him to spot a flower he’s never noticed before. Already, Zeiner says, he’s observed impressive swaths of glacier lilies and other classics.

But the early bloom highlights a trend concerning climate change onlookers. If the flowers show earlier, will pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds be around to ensure they last?

More immediate threats are the rising number of explorers who pick the flowers and trample off-trail, Bivens says. The nonprofit festival aims to make people “appreciate the wild places we have,” she says. What better teacher than the fragile, mysterious wildflowers?

“It really is quite a miracle that unfolds,” she says.

___

Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazette.com

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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