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2013 July

Plains Town

The story of the great American small town resting on the western plains. 

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Dawn breaks in the east in small-town America, just the same as every other place. The farmer has been awake and working for an hour by the time the sun begins to rise. Birds chirp their familiar song to the farmer during the coolest hours of the day as he begins maintenance on his 15-ton John Deere combine, paint faded and scraped from the two decades worth of fields it has harvested. Equipped with the proverbial outfit of patched jeans, long sleeve shirt, and hat, the farmer knows he has 12 hours worth of work in that field on this day. With the crop being freshly planted, the first task is to take a hoe with his weathered, jagged hands and remove pesky weeds that want to take his crop’s vital nutrients. The farmer will be occupied for hours combing through the rows and mounds of soil. 

The morning progresses and local business owners arrive at their respectful place of commerce to begin the day. The coffee and tea shop on the corner of Main Street and the highway welcomes its normal flow of regular customers while the donut shop fills with retired men eating their favorite cake donut and discussing politics and the drought. The forecast shows no sign of rain again, and the men chatter about another day with temperatures in the triple digits. 

The drug store opens its doors to find customers already keenly waiting in the parking lot to refill their prescriptions. A familiar man in a motorized scooter pulls in to buy his regular: a Diet Coke priced at $1.50. Though he knows the price has never changed, he still asks the cashier for his total, and hands over exact change as anticipated. The man leaves the drugstore and gets back into his scooter, small dog and soda on his lap, to coast through his regular Main Street route, heat be damned. 

A mother of three has beads of sweat dripping from her forehead after vacuuming the house and getting the kids dressed and ready. She dreads making the monotonous drive to Wal-Mart some ten miles away, but knows that it must be done. The kids fuss about the musty smell of the feedlot crowded with cows as they pass by, but to her it smells like home, strange as that may be. Even as early in the day as it is, she appreciates the air conditioning in the car, as the dash reads “92 degrees”. The car rounds the only curve on the trip and passes through the unused underpass, and the mother of three anticipates seeing familiar faces at the only corporate-chain “superstore” in the Valley.

A recently promoted eighth grade boy wakes up early for his first day of strength training with his future high school teammates and coaches. The lanky boy with disheveled hair already feels soreness crawling through every underdeveloped muscle in his body, which just got its first taste of working out. He cringes knowing that he has a city-recreation baseball game to be played that evening. In the meantime, he knows a paradise that will give him temporary reprieve: the town’s swimming pool. 

Elsewhere in the town, a group of friends gathers at the Loaf-N-Jug gas station to plan out their friendly assault on the streets. They decide to begin by going for a cruise; one done by many before them, up and down Main Street, poor sounding bass rattling and rocking their parent’s cars and trucks that they claim as their own. After an hour of cruising, the group spots a few more friends playing basketball at the concrete slabs on Main Street, next to the railroad tracks. The friends won’t cause much mischief there, being that the slabs are catty-cornered to the police station. They throw off their shirts in hopes of staying cool and play some basketball, as the deafening roar of trains intermittently cuts into their banter during the game. 

At lunch time, the farmer has moved to another field, swathing through the hay that has already grown so that he can sell it and make a profit for the month. Sitting in the tractor is not exactly a leisurely activity, as the sun beats furiously through the windows, turning the high-powered machine into a slow-moving sauna. 

The lunch hour at the local restaurants sees a swarming of business men and women, roofers from out of town, retirees, and families looking for a temporary reprieve from the heat as well as a tasty meal. Not one of the four or five eateries disappoints, all offering a cool, air-conditioned space equipped with a variety of menu items and, of course, ice cold beer. 

Sitting at the bar is the regular day drinker, known by any and all throughout the town. He is a staple at the joint nearly every day for up to six hours, telling stories of high school glory, war, love and loss. The man’s life story has been told to customers through and through, and his familiar jeans are as weathered and gray as his shadowy beard stubble. Most amazing to onlookers is his ability to pay his bar tab daily, despite no longer having a job (or at least, as far as they can tell). 

The group of friends playing basketball has had enough for the day, and makes its way to get a revitalizing drink from “Sonics” as the Sonic franchise in town has come to be known to locals. The extra “s” on the end derives from years and years of slang becoming so familiar that it is used by residents, whether serious or as a joke. After visiting with classmates working there, the gang decides it’s time to fraternize with the lifeguards at the pool. 

From around 1:00 until 4:00 p.m., the swimming pool transforms from a refreshing body of still water into a madhouse of shouting and splashing. The mother of three is there, sitting with her youngest daughter in the baby pool while trying to keep an eye on the two boys, dunking each other and doing their best version of a front flip off the diving board. The new freshman is there, tossing around a ball with his group of friends, feeling better than earlier now that the cool water replaced the heat and sore muscles. The lifeguards sit on their posts fantasizing about diving into the refreshing blue paradise, a feeling much better than baking at 100 degrees directly below the sun. They are given a very temporary tease of what the pool feels like when the group of high school buddies splashes them flirtatiously. Music from the speakers bellows throughout the parking lot and baseball fields a mere 100 yards away. 

It’s near 5:00 p.m. now, meaning work is done and men and women can rush to the golf course to get 18 holes in before their spouse calls for dinner. The farmer, finally accomplishing his daily routine, drives the tractor back to the house, temporarily slowing down highway traffic until he reaches his destination a mile away, a long journey for the slow-moving machine. 

At the baseball field, the freshman runs onto the diamond while spectators admire one of the best-maintained fields throughout the Valley. The mother of three is there, rooting on her son at first base and husband, who coaches the team.

Clouds are seen in the distance, though skeptics are sure that they won’t make their way to the dehydrated town. Instead, warm and unforgiving wind blows dust in the faces of residents, akin to being trapped in a dryer filled with dirt. 

The group of friends gathers into one car now, plotting out their plan for the night. The first destination is the never-empty liquor store, hoping to see a friend or uncle willing to buy them a few beers. The mission is a successful one, and the gang calls friends, acquaintances, and acquaintances of acquaintances to let them know about the beer and ensuing bonfire. They make the trek out to the countryside, to the home of the farmer, father of one of the group members. The pit at the farm is due for a good burn, and the group is due for another memorable night. 

The sun sets in the west here, just the same as any other place. This is the life of small-town America. This is Rocky Ford.

— by Nick Jurney

 

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Editorial

Opinion – The 4th of True Lie

Growing in young Americans is the distrust in our government’s ability to function as a transparent and honest democracy. These are just two opinions but they are not the only two. 

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In light of recent scandals and growing public disdain of government, a new level of distrust has been born out of two wars, national security scandals, bungled national disaster responses, and failed promises. Growing in young Americans is the distrust in our government’s ability to function as a transparent and honest democracy.

These are just two opinions but they are not the only two. 

Felix Cordova:

Isn’t it ironic how Independence Day is right around the corner and we feel less free than ever? There are the National Security Agency scandals, the IRS’ target lists and much more that might be going on that could be hidden from the public. Is the government, that we put all of our faith and trust in, being dishonest with us?

The Fourth of July has sparked an interesting topic, because it’s set for celebration, but there’s not much to celebrate this year. Colorado already has a firework ban set for obvious reasons and now we don’t have much of a government to celebrate. I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s hard to be happy when things are far from alright. 

We’re still the home of the brave, but maybe not quite the land of the free, something I think that Edward Snowden might agree with as he continues to escape the grasp of the United States government. Regardless of your political affiliation or moral perspective, I think collectively more people are starting to applaud the recent leaks about our government’s distrust in us. 

Our private conversations might not be as private as we thought and the NSA might have already seen this before you do. I am not a threat to national security but the fact my private information could be screened legally, which defies the amendments put in place to protect our privacy, is a threat to national security.  It seems like the government is more concerned with their own security rather than our security. 

Is this the transparency that the government has promised us? We should be the ones with the ability to monitor the government’s actions. If not us then our elected representatives should, but it seems like our shield laws are facing the wrong way and shielding the wrong people. When truth lies in the hands of the “leakers,” and not the people we elect, we are not celebrating independence but a very fragile sense of freedom.

 

Nick Jurney: 

Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden. These are the names of three people who, after discovering secrets that are bigger than themselves and their own interests, have risked everything in the name of transparency. At just 22-years-young, an army private stationed in the middle of the desert was given access to hundreds upon hundreds of documents classified “Top Secret”. What he saw within those documents was overwhelming and shocking It’s hard to fathom what exactly was going through Manning’s head at the time, but it’s hard to not feel some level of compassion for what he ultimately did. He took those documents, and one shocking video, and handed them over to Wikileaks and Julian Assange, who then published them for the world to see.

Assange and Manning stood for two common goals: to have government transparency and truth. Now on trial some three years later, “986 days longer than the legal maximum”, as Julian Assange pointed out, Manning faces a possibility of life in prison if convicted of aiding the enemy. It’s almost hard to say that Manning will be given a fair trial especially after considering the abuse and unfairness he received while incarcerated. The government is set to make an example out of him, and they would do the same to Assange, if they could ever get their hands on him.

Now the government is chasing another “leaker”, charging former NSA employee Edward Snowden with espionage. What is espionage, you ask? It’s a systematic use of spies to obtain secret information from a competitor, or enemy. Wait a second; was not the information that Snowden released actual documentation of our own government collecting telephone and Internet data, or spying, on its own people? Wouldn’t that then mean that the government considers us to be a competitor, or enemy? Oh, the irony.

Snowden is now essentially on the run from his own government, who hopes to catch him and make an example of him, much like with Manning. “Don’t tell our people who elected us what we are doing. That’s the media’s job, that’s why we pay them!” That’s what it seems like our government is telling these information leakers and the public that they swear to serve. They don’t want their actions to be transparent, because their actions are immoral and terrifying. Or that’s what we are told. Transparency is essential for trust; going after people who risk it all to expose the truth, is untrustworthy.

 

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.

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News

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

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.
Continue Reading

Last Half

The Impact | Bands in the Backyard – Country Sweat, Tires & Dirt

“We have 11,000 people here from 17 different states. The economic impact for Pueblo is huge.”  – Tommy Giodone

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Florida Georgia Line performs at Bands in the Backyard

Florida Georgia Line performs at Bands in the Backyard

“Bands in the Backyard” blended local Pueblo talent with some big time Nashville stars to put on one of the biggest country music festivals Pueblo has ever seen.

“This event is the biggest thing that’s happened in Pueblo in quite a while,” Tommy Giodone, the event organizer, said. “We have 11,000 people here from 17 different states. The economic impact for Pueblo is huge.” 

So what does it take to draw 11,000 people to a packed out rodeo arena with standing room only and a sold out campground?

 Besides the water slide, zip line and other festival activities, the talent drawing people in included the winners of the CMA’s Best New Artist Award, Florida Georgia Line, as well as one of country music’s biggest superstars of all time, Gary Allan.

Even with the big stars, the local Pueblo flavor was evident, from the ancient pickup trucks that served as VIP seating to the opening act itself. 

The show opened with a band based in Pueblo. The group Overton Road is named after a street which runs parallel to I-25 through Pueblo.

In fact, the band practices at a location on Overton Road, and welcomes anyone who wants to stop by to hear them practice their contemporary country music with strong rock vibes. 

The band has a down-home feel, which makes sense when you consider that it is made up of a dentist, a contractor, an insurance agent, a car guy, marketing specialist, a hospital information auditor and a computer genius—just a few regular people who combined talents to become a local talent that Pueblo can be proud of.

Fans of NBC’s show Nashville Star were thrilled to see the familiar face of the second opener, Charley Jenkins. After finishing in the top 12 out of 45,000 contestants on the show, Jenkins has taken his career to a new level by opening for national acts such as Lady Antebellum, Allan Jackson, and now Florida Georgia Line and Gary Allan. 

Jenkins brings a family man persona to the stage along with his country-western-old -school-rock music style. 

Parmalee, the third performance, hails from Greenville, North Carolina, and is as country as country can be. The odd name originates from a tiny town nearby where they began practicing together in, what else, but a barn. This rocking country band has bits and pieces of bluegrass, traditional country, southern rock and blues.

Parmalee has quickly gone from virtually unknown to a well-known band, and recently signed on with Stoney Creek Records, who also signs big-name artists like Randy Houser and Thompson Square. 

An hour after Parmalee left the stage; a restless crowd enthusiastically welcomed Florida Georgia Line.

Florida Georgia Line is a relative newcomer to the country scene, but they have risen quickly to the top, and brought an intense energy to the stage.

Their music career began as two guys making music on the back of a tailgate, but now Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley have one of the biggest hit singles of the year, “Cruise,” which quickly rose to the number one country single in the nation.

Even with the energy Florida Georgia Line brought to the stage, Gary Allan’s unique songwriting style and long career in country music more than earned him the headlining spot of the event.

 For 17 years, Allan has been writing and singing country songs with great success. If his seven gold and three platinum albums weren’t proof enough of that, then his stellar performance at “Bands in the Backyard” would clear any doubt from the mind. 

His gravelly undertones and hopeful lyrics combined for a breathtaking, energetic experience that fans were waiting and hoping for. 

So what does Pueblo think of having some of the hottest country acts, literally, in its backyard? 

Jay Baker, whose parents live less than a mile from the venue, said they were worried at first about having this many people brought so near their quiet country home. 

 “We were concerned about all the people disturbing our property, but that wasn’t the case. The event organizers planned every aspect of the event very well, and aside from a little dust in the air, we didn’t even notice the event going on,” Baker said. 

Despite the initial worries, Baker said he thought this was a great opportunity for the Mesa area of Pueblo County.

Parmaless at Bands in the Backyard

Parmaless at Bands in the Backyard

 “Pueblo County has always been proud of their agricultural and country heritage. To bring in some of Nashville’s biggest country artists for a sellout concert, is as much a celebration of our heritage and way of life as it is a great event financially for the community,” Baker said.

Giodone hopes to be able to bring “Bands in the Backyard” back to Pueblo again next year, but isn’t 100 percent sure that it will happen yet.

“It’s not hard to get big names to come to Pueblo, though it doesn’t happen very often, you just have to write a big check,” Giodone said. 

He went on to say that the economic impact more than makes up for the cost of getting the artists here. The restaurants people eat at, the hotels people book and the gas they have bought are bringing millions of dollars into Pueblo’s economy. 

 “Look at all these people,” Giodone said as he motioned with his hands to the huge crowd. “The most important thing is that they all came out and are having a good time, and we’re looking really hard at bringing the event back to Pueblo next year.” 

Pueblo will welcome the return of Bands in the Backyard, if the large turnout was any indication of how they felt about having bands in their backyard.

“As someone who grew up just miles from the venue, I think Bands in the Backyard is great for our community. I would welcome future concerts at Giodone’s arena,” Baker said.

— Katie England

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.
Continue Reading

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