Brower: News statewide reflects our local trend

Patrick Brower
Grand Enterprise Initiative
Patrick Brower

Every year in early December Colorado University-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business issues a Colorado Business Outlook for the coming year. The report for 2018 is somewhat predictable for many local employers and entrepreneurs, although we can glean some advice from within its forecast.

In essence, the report states that job growth in Colorado is expected to slow next year because a burdened infrastructure system and worker shortages are likely to drag down the economy.

Which is not to say the economic outlook isn’t strong. Richard Wobbekind, the executive director of the business research division at Colorado University-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, was quoted in a Denver Post story by Aldo Svaldi about the forecast. He summed up one critical aspect of the outlook and our plight here in Grand County and most of Colorado.

“The economy is still strong here. We just don’t have enough labor,” Wobbekind said.

And it’s not that hiring is likely to slow because of a lack of job openings, he said. It will slow because of a lack of workers to fill those openings.

This is a problem that businesses here have been confronting for two years now and it appears the situation isn’t likely to improve. And the burden will be on employers to try and come up with ways to address this issue.

Most employers know some of the ways they can try to address this. First, pay more. Second, make a conscious effort to improve work conditions and on-the-job morale. Third, give serious consideration to a worker bonus program that handsomely rewards employees who bring in new workers who stay on the job for, say, a minimum of three months. More and more, incentive programs like this are bearing fruit. It’s sort of a glorified word-of-mouth, relationship-based recruitment program.

Interestingly, the Colorado University forecast also cites infrastructure as another barrier to more expansive growth. We know what that means here in Grand County: Lack of housing for workers, and I’m including even well-paid workers in that mix.

The other issue with “lack of infrastructure” is the key fact that builders we do have working in Grand County are too busy completing more lucrative and higher-demand jobs. Which means they aren’t concentrating on building affordable housing that offers lower margins and tighter budget constraints.

So it looks like 2018 will be a strong year economically, but we are likely going to continue to struggle with issues we’ve been confronting for two years. But now the experts are saying these issues may impact the rate of growth. This has been easy to see right here in Grand County.

When resorts can’t staff enough qualified people to handle visitors, spending lags and opportunities for profits are lost. When small service businesses can’t handle requests for service quickly and efficiently, business is constrained and the opportunity for more profits is lost.

The really disturbing part about this dilemma is that visitors who come and have a bad experience may forever decide they don’t want to come back. This also poses a serious challenge for our resort- and tourism-based economy where returning visitors tend to be a highest-spending visitors. And some of them may even return and buy homes or condos.

It will be struggle in 2018 in the same areas where we’ve been struggling. But the good news is that we’ve got a good two years of experience here in Grand County dealing with these issues.

When it comes to economic challenges, the businesses in Grand County tend to be ahead of the curve in Colorado.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise. Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at

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