COLORADO - Originally posted on the Highlands Ranch Herald. Written by Christy Steadman It was a bustling three days in the nation's capital — people were protesting the Keystone XL pipeline project and the World Health Organization was having a function on Ebola.
Amid it all was a group of south metro Denver's elected officials, educators and two graduate students, chamber of commerce members and business leaders.
The trip to Washington, D.C. was very successful, said Jeff Wasden, president of the Colorado Business Roundtable, because there was something for everybody.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those who had never gone before,” he said, “and the veterans to D.C. got to experience something new.”
The 24 attendees visited Washington for three days Nov. 18-20. The main purposes included building relationships, increasing visibility locally and nationally, gaining knowledge and providing input to national leaders.
“An understanding of the issues critical to our representatives at the federal level, and how those can end up affecting us locally, is key,” said Josh Martin, Parker mayor pro tem.
The group had a full itinerary with a “very robust business agenda,” Wasden said, which included meetings with the National Business Roundtable, the White House Business Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The trip was also significant because the local participants had opportunities to network with each other, said Wasden, a Highlands Ranch resident.
“All the lunches and dinners are my favorite part,” said Katia de Orbegoso, president of the Roxborough Business Association. “The unstructured environment was the perfect time to get to know each other, share ideas and comment on the different briefings.”
And there was some time for fun, Wasden said.
The group went bowling at the Harry S. Truman Bowling Alley, and they enjoyed an evening monument tour. Being able to tour the monuments in the evening, away from the rest of the tourists and people tending to business matters at the capital, provides a person with a different feel of their significances, Wasden said.
“It becomes more reverent and reflective,” he said. “You can reflect in solitude on some of the great leaders.”
One highlight of the trip was a meeting with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, said David Schlatter, corporate real estate adviser, of Centennial.
Bennet is in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline project — an $8 billion Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline — and there were protesters demonstrating their disagreement. A Senate vote was occurring that day, and Schlatter said, “We were there at the moment of truth.”
“It went from a five-minute meeting to a 40-minute intimate conversation with him,” Wasden said. “That really provided some of the wow-factor to the trip.”
In addition to their time with Bennet, the group was able to meet with Congressmen Ken Buck of Colorado and Ted Yoho of Florida, and Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum.
“We got to engage with people in D.C. and meet the people that make a difference,” said Englewood-based Steve Roper, president and CEO of Roper Insurance. “Get our voice heard on a national level.”
Overall, the trip was “a great opportunity to learn first-hand about what's going on in Washington,” said Natalie Harden, director of public policy and economic development for the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce.
“And we were demonstrating that we care enough to be willing to physically meet with them,” she added. “They appreciate us making that effort.”
It's important for people to be engaged, Roper said. The people in Washington are also “normal people trying to do the best job they can,” and getting involved can make a difference, he added, because they do listen.
“It's hard to say if we did move the needle at all,” Roper said, “but we hope that it does.”