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"May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right."
– Peter Marshall  
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  Volume No. 18 Issue No. 7 July 2021  

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  County officials speak at chamber meeting
  By Pete Gawda

   El Paso County Commissioner Carrie Geitner and Crystal LaTier, executive director of the El Paso County Economic Development Department, were the featured speakers at the May 5 meeting of the Eastern Plains Chamber of Commerce.
   
   “We are here for you,” Geitner said. “I am dedicated to this community.” She added that she was focused on supporting local businesses.
   
   She also said the updated master plan helps county officials plan appropriately for the future in such areas as roads and water.
   
   Turning to the topic of annexation, Geitner said the county has no say-so in the process, but property owners do. After the meeting, Geitner clarified her statement. There are two ways that property can be annexed. Developers can request the annexation of vacant property, which is the most common path, Geitner said. With developed property, the owners can request annexation. She also said the city, when considering annexation, puts together an annexation report; the county studies the report and makes suggestions to the city.
   
   Geitner said one of the reasons for annexation could be water because Colorado Springs has surface water and the county does not. She noted that Falcon is currently served by several sources of water, some of which are not renewable. However, she said the list of disadvantages for annexation is lengthy. She said she did not like additional rules, adding, “I feel like I have all the services I need.”
   
   The residents of Falcon could vote on incorporating as a city. As a resident of Falcon, Geitner told the NFH that she personally would like to see Falcon remain an unincorporated area.
   
   Because she receives many calls about roads, Geitner said she was trying to get additional money allocated for roads in the next few years. “We do require developers to improve roads,” she said, adding that developers also have to conduct traffic studies.
   
   LaTier highlighted some of the achievements of the economic development department during 2020. The department developed and administered three programs to assist small businesses, nonprofits and community development partners in overcoming the effects of COVID-19. The Pikes Peak Enterprise Zone Business Relief Fund provided grant funding totaling $898,120 to 128 small businesses impacted by COVID-19. These small businesses supported 1,611 total jobs. Another grant program assisted chambers of commerce and business league organizations with a total grant funding of $1,192,337 that was awarded to nine organizations. A third business relief fund for small businesses and nonprofits awarded a total of $13,858,528 to 864 small businesses and nonprofits.
   
   Turning to non-COVID-related accomplishments, LaTier said more than 369 businesses received various tax credits from the Pikes Peak Enterprise Zone Program, which serves El Paso and Teller counties.
   
   In 2020, the economic development department worked with the El Paso County Housing Authority to administer various housing programs. A total of $1,825,000 in loans were given to four different projects to help build 412 affordable housing units, which will be completed in 2021. Freedom Springs was completed in September 2020. Located near Platt Avenue and Powers Boulevard, this project provides 50 units of supportive housing. The renovation of Winfield Apartments, near Stetson Hills and Powers Boulevard, was completed in November 2020, with 160 units available for supportive housing.
   
   In 2020, the Community Development Block Grant Program received more than $1 million in taxpayer dollars to be used for supportive services, infrastructure improvements and advancing housing safety and accessibility.
   
   The next chamber meeting is at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, June 2, at Grace Community Church, 9475 Grace Church View.
  
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  Cockpit Distillery has landed In Falcon
  By Cailean Anderson

   A whiskey sour, a Manhatten cocktail, an Old-Fashioned, a Cuba Libra — all made from hand-crafted spirits — mashed, fermented and distilled — all done at the Cockpit Craft Distillery in Falcon.
   
   Calder Curtis opened his first Cockpit Craft Distillery in Colorado Springs on Galley Road. It made sense to open a new one in Falcon because he and his family live on 80 acres in Calhan, so he opened a distillery closer to home.
   
   According to the website, Cockpit Craft Distillery makes affordable cocktails from raw ingredients: “100% Grain/Cane to glass Spirits.” They also offer informative tours. There is a “separated column still” that was built by Curtis, who had over a decade of Air Force metallurgy experience. Curtis cut, welded, grinded and polished the still from raw materials.
   
   Curtis came up with the original idea for Cockpit Distillery in 2013 while he was in Afghanistan with the U.S. Air Force. It has grown in recent years as a family business that he operates along with his wife, Asia.
   
   COVID-19 presented a challenge, of course.
   
   “We had to get through it, but we only had the original location at that time, so we only had a couple of employees and they were used to part-time work,” he said. “So, we kept our main employee on through the whole thing.” Then, he said outside sales actually saw a boost. Curtis said the owners of the Falcon building were awesome and didn’t charge rent “until all the COVID stuff was gone, which enabled us to build the place out a bit slower and more the way we wanted it.”
   
   Curtis talked about what sets his business apart from his competitors. “I think, what our biggest advantage is our price point,” he said. He said he has seen distilleries charge $12 to $15 for drinks. “I wanted to fill that stepping stone between beer and whiskey because almost everybody is a beer person, but only recently have people started to get back into whiskey, spirits and stuff,” he said. He said he wants to give them something other than beer that is affordable, tastes good and is made in-house.
   
   When Curtis isn’t at the main location and his wife isn’t managing the Falcon location, they are spending time with their two kids, Callie and Connor — camping, fishing, tending to their farm animals, and enjoying their land.
  
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