By Bryan Grossman
The award “recognizes a business individual who contributes to the economic growth and prosperity of the Colorado Springs area, is involved in the betterment of the community through active civic participation, and demonstrates a willingness to assist in business and community projects, among other factors,” according to the Chamber & EDC.
“For nearly three decades, Kent has dedicated his knowledge, skills and passion to USAA, and over that time has propelled the organization as a top employer, high-performing business and reliable economic contributor in Colorado Springs,” said Dirk Draper, president and CEO for the Chamber & EDC, in a news release. “Beyond business, Kent is a steadfast and enthusiastic community leader who believes in Colorado Springs and works vigorously to influence our city’s quality of life for its citizens.”
Fortune is responsible for the 1,800 employees at USAA’s Colorado Springs location. He’s also led local expansion, including increasing workforce by more than 65 percent in the last eight years and overseeing multi-million-dollar investments in retrofitting facilities.
“An ardent supporter of military, he has cultivated USAA’s workforce so that 36 percent of it is composed of former military or military spouses,” the release states, adding, “An active civic contributor and influencer, Fortune serves on the boards of the Southeastern Colorado American Red Cross and Pikes Peak United Way. He also donates his time and resources to Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, the Colorado Springs Conservatory, and the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Over the past four years, he was the Honorary Commander for the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base and 306th Squadron at the U.S. Air Force Academy.”
Three businesses were also recognized at the gala.
• Company of the Year – Polaris Alpha
“With its mission-first mindset, Polaris Alpha is keenly focused on supporting the safety and security of our nation and its allies, providing the tools and engineering to overcome the toughest challenges faced by governments worldwide,” according to the Chamber & EDC. “From cyber and artificial intelligence to space solutions and public safety, Polaris Alpha offers proven products to address a broad spectrum of defense and intelligence challenges. Over the last 12 months, Polaris Alpha completed five acquisitions, enabling the technology leader to significantly strengthen its reach in the space and C4ISR markets for military and intelligence customers. Serving all five branches of the U.S. military, Canada, the United Kingdom and beyond, Polaris Alpha is helping Colorado Springs raise its profile as a competitive business environment for information technology and cybersecurity.”
• New Business of the Year – FoodMaven
“FoodMaven set out to find a solution to a business problem and a social and community challenge at the same time,” according to the Chamber & EDC. “On average, roughly 50 percent of all produce in the United States is thrown away. When extra or unused food, much of it regionally cultivated, makes its way to restaurants and food institutions, FoodMaven takes it off their hands, stores it and supplies it to kitchens in Colorado Springs and Denver. What isn’t sold, is donated to food charities like Care and Share or composting facilities. This flexibility to capture lost foods is a win-win proposition that is revolutionizing the food industry.”
• Community Investment of the Year – Westside Investment Partners
“With a focus on re-engineering commercial spaces, Westside Investment Partners invested $3.5 million in capital improvements to redesign 2424 Garden of the Gods,” according to the Chamber & EDC. “The campus totals 683,000 square feet with approximately 450,000 square feet of office space now available for lease, the largest space currently available across the Front Range and Colorado. Westside Investment Partners, whose portfolio also includes Victory Ridge at Interquest Parkway and Voyager Parkway, focused on improvements that embraced a healthy lifestyle, integrated technology and modernized workspaces, creating a place that feels like more than an office.
The Military Affairs Award of Excellence was also presented at the gala to retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Larry Fortner. Fortner graduated with the first Air Force Academy Class of 1959, and went on to serve 33 years as a fighter, combat and test pilot. He earned the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross, among others.
“After retiring from the Air Force, Fortner worked for [Northrop] Grumman,” according to the Chamber & EDC. “He remained active in the community through the Chamber & EDC’s Military Affairs Council and numerous military- and veteran-related associations. Namely, Fortner obtained financing for Colorado’s first Veteran’s Trauma Court, and because of his efforts, the Colorado Springs program has influenced programming at the national level.”