Brower: What does a bright Colorado outlook really mean for Grand County?
December 6, 2016
In my work of meeting with Grand County entrepreneurs who want to start or expand businesses, I frequently hear this question: What does the economy look like for the next year?
This is certainly a valid question because the ups and downs of the larger, state-wide economy greatly influence the business we can expect to see in Grand County. Tourism, construction and government are three of the big sectors of the economy that have the biggest bearing on economic growth in Grand County.
So, the good news is that a report released Monday, Dec. 5 by the University of Colorado's Leeds School of Business paints a pretty rosy picture for increases in those sectors of the economy in 2017.
In the construction sector the study is forecasting a 5.7 percent increase. That's good news for Grand County as historically for the last 20 years construction has driven lots of employment. The report states that while multifamily construction is expected to fall slightly in 2017, strong growth in single-family homes is forecast to make up for any decline, with single-family permit growth to exceed the national average by 8 percentage points.
For local entrepreneurs and existing business owners, this is all good news. But don’t expect there to be an overwhelming boost. Our peaks will be higher, I predict, and our lows will stay about where they were in 2016. Patrick Brower
Including residential, nonresidential and non-building construction (such as roadways, bridges and dams), employment is expected to grow by 5.7 percent, or from 157,000 jobs in 2016 to 166,000 jobs in 2017.
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The study calls most of the tourism trade "leisure and hospitality." Here's what it says: "With projected growth of 10,800 jobs in 2016, this healthy industry — the first to begin rebounding after the recession — touted record skier visits and strong parks visits for the year. An addition of 12,100 jobs, or an expansion by 3.7 percent, is expected in 2017 — its eighth consecutive year of growth."
This of course is really good news for us in Grand County, with one catch. I fear that we will continue to have more jobs available than can be filled. We will continue to struggle with how to house employees who may take these new jobs and how to pay them enough to afford to live here in Grand. That's a good news, bad news forecast. But I'll take the growth along with a dose of local reality.
I think that government job growth is important in Grand County. Most of the steady, well-paying jobs in the county are in the public sector so I think it's important to mention the forecast for government jobs. Here's what the report says about the expected 1.1 percent increase in jobs in that sector:
"With federal, state and local workers comprising this sector, government is the second largest provider of jobs in Colorado, representing roughly one in every six jobs. This sector is expected to see 1.1 percent growth with the addition of 4,700 jobs in 2017 — reaching 428,000 total jobs — and includes space research and technology, public safety, program administration and education. Job growth is expected in state and local government, while federal employment will remain flat."
Here's another fact to consider: Colorado's population is the second-fastest growing in the U.S. in percentage terms with projected growth of about 95,000 people to a total of about 5.5 million people in the state in 2016.
For local entrepreneurs and existing business owners, this is all good news. But don't expect there to be an overwhelming boost. Our peaks will be higher, I predict, and our lows will stay about where they were in 2016. That's my prediction based on this report.
Of course, all bets are off in the event of a major recession, which could happen at any time. I remember the CU report from 2007 for 2008 painted a pretty rosy picture and we all know what happened then.
Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching for anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.