Gessler promotes business data centers

Businesses looking for information about specific areas or industries in Colorado are at a disadvantage because the state doesn’t collect that information — a quandary that the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office hopes to correct.

Building a database that could be used for business development anywhere in the state will give any individual or small business the same “sophisticated tools a Fortune 500 company has,” Secretary of State Scott Gessler said Friday.

Gessler has asked the Legislature to spend $2.25 million over two years developing business-information centers.

Those centers will combine information from the secretary of state’s business records with records from the departments of Labor and Revenue to provide a multidimensional view of the kinds of businesses and industries located in counties and municipalities.

Data collection at that level could help businesses with relocation decisions, make it easier to find potential customers or vendors and make other business decisions, Gessler said.

Data from the centers also could be used by agencies such as the Office of Economic Development and International Trade to make pitches to firms outside the state, Gessler said.

Gov. John Hickenlooper was fond enough of the idea that he mentioned it in his state-of-the-state speech.

Communities outside the metro areas on the Front Range stand to benefit as much as more populous locales, Gessler said.

“This is going to put them on a par with a lot of urban areas,” he said.

Gessler said he hopes to have the business-information center program up and running in about two years, a task that could be hampered by the availability of computer-savvy employees needed to carry out the work.

He has the money in his department — which is funded entirely by business fees — but he needs the Legislature’s approval for spending from tax-funded departments, Gessler noted.

The Secretary of State’s Office oversees both business licensing and elections, including voter registration.

Gessler defended himself in an interview with The Daily Sentinel editorial board against criticism about his seeking to establish a legal-defense fund he could use to hire an attorney to represent him in an investigation by the Denver District Attorney’s Office.

Gessler sought a “special occasion” exemption in state ethics laws to donation limits in his effort to hire an attorney to represent him in a criminal investigation sought by Colorado Ethics Watch, an organization that frequently investigates Republican office holders such as himself, Gessler said.

He can’t use state funds to hire an attorney and he can’t afford to do so on his $68,000 salary, so he sought to set up the legal-defense fund, much as was used when a legislator sought funds when his spouse fell terminally ill, he said.

The Colorado Ethics Commission is considering whether to allow Gessler to set up such a fund.


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