Road of economic growth takes unique detours in Grand |

Road of economic growth takes unique detours in Grand

Patrick Brower

The Colorado Department of Labor and the Regional Business Services Coordinator have released some fascinating numbers about the employment and business sector situation in Grand County.

Overall, the number of jobs and the labor force numbers show continued gains over the last year, which is good news.

But the startling news for Grand County is that the figures show that the county lost seven businesses in the last year between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the same quarter of 2019. Over the last seven quarters, almost two years, the number is down by 24.

This is a curious number because throughout the county overall amounts of business and retail activity continue to grow at rates not seen for many, many years. My random survey of four retail clients with whom I have worked in the last two years reveals that overall sales numbers are up anywhere from 14% (mirrored by most towns’ retail sales tax income) to even 90%. Remember, a 90% increase is essentially a doubling of business in one year.

Service sector businesses (construction services and hospitality services) have shown equally astounding increases if they have been able to handle the added workload. But that raises the key question: If those numbers are up, why have we lost 24 businesses in almost two years?

Here’s how the copy in the report reads: “Grand County lost seven businesses between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, but remained in the range of 825 to 886 seen over the past seven quarters. The most significant change was the reduction in leisure and hospitality businesses, which were down by eight.”

The change in leisure and hospitality businesses is a reflection, sadly, of normal business operations in that sector. Many businesses come and go in the sector of room maintenance, cleaning and tourist services. The cause of these fluctuations is simply that people start a contracting business to provide those services but they can’t find enough employees or, even, subcontractors (which are also subject to the statistics cited here) to fill the demand. In many instances these people just go back to work as employees for someone else.

So while the number of businesses may drop, the number of employees continues to grow, as does the number of job openings. That’s the cycle we are in right now.

As for other service businesses closing, it’s not difficult to just look up and down your main street to see what’s happening. In Granby alone two auto service garages closed in the last six months, but for different reasons. But the end result is fewer service businesses operating in Granby than a year ago.

Two other businesses closed in Granby as well, one due to relocation and one due to the death of the owner.

But on the other side of the coin, in positive news that doesn’t make the statistics, Granby has seen three of its retail and tourist businesses re-open and expand, creating new jobs and revenue for the town, right on main street. Expansions, which in some cases are essentially new businesses, are taking place as existing businesses diversify and grow.

Fraser continues to see expanded service and retail growth, along with several expansions, particularly in the service sector. Other changes in Fraser reflect the relocations of business simply so they can accommodate new growth. These are good signs. Winter Park is seeing a similar phenomenon.

Just for the record, the report states the following: “The number of people employed in Grand County remains at the highest rate in the last 10 years, but there remains a gap between the number of unemployed and employers’ needs.”

And consider this: “Jobs increased for the fourth consecutive quarter, showing gains of nearly 3,000 since the last quarter of 2017. The result is the county’s lowest unemployment rate in more than a decade.”

In conclusion, Grand County remains on the road of growth, but not without some of the detours being experienced by rural and resort communities across the state in our expanding economy.

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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