In a Denver hotel ballroom Monday afternoon, Richard Wobbekind of the University of Colorado confirmed what almost anyone close to the state’s business scene already knew.
Colorado’s economy continues to be strong, as confirmed by most of the 2015 Colorado Business Economic Outlook. That report, produced annually by CU Boulder’s Leeds School of Business by compiling input from more than 100 individual experts, projects 61,300 new jobs in the state next year, actually the exact amount that the report put forth last December for 2014. For the record, that prediction from 12 months ago has turned out to be an underestimate, with the real total now expected to push 73,000.
Interviewed by Denver media prior to the Monday presentation, Wobbekind went a step further. He said if 2015 matches the advance outlook, that will wrap up a remarkable three-year run of 2013-2015, which he characterized as the state’s best sustained surge of that length since 1998-2000.
Wobbekind did indicate that Colorado Springs and Grand Junction continue to fall short of the momentum north of us along the Front Range. But if it’s true that a rising tide lifts all boats, you’d conclude that Colorado Springs won’t be backsliding in 2015.
Another topic in the Colorado Business Economic Outlook isn’t quite so cheerful, suggesting that in the coming year Colorado might encounter shortages in its qualified workforce, which actually could affect the state as a whole. Wobbekind indicates that many key economic sectors are concerned about not having enough good people to fill the available jobs, which could mean less hiring at some point.
Colorado Springs already knows all about that. Talk to various manufacturers in this market, and they’ll tell you they could hire more people — likely adding into the hundreds — right now if they could find qualified workers here to fill all of those companies’ needs.
[pullquote]We’re ahead of other markets in identifying and tackling the problem.[/pullquote]The same goes for construction companies, as quantified by the state outlook. It projected 13,500 new construction jobs in 2014 but only 6,000 in 2015, primarily because of contractors being unable to find enough capable employees.
In fact, said Wobbekind, “even leisure and hospitality” could have trouble filling their available positions, which don’t pay as well as manufacturing and construction.
But there may be a silver lining in all those numbers and predictions for Colorado Springs.
We’re ahead of other markets in identifying and tackling the problem of an insufficient workforce. Local manufacturers have become increasingly focused on addressing the issue of workforce development with leaders at UCCS and Pikes Peak Community College, as well as the region’s public school districts. They’re all working to come up with fresh ways to reach out to high school students uncertain of their future, hoping to help more teenagers see the potential for learning skills and transitioning into stable, good-paying jobs without the requirement of a four-year college degree.
More fresh ideas and initiatives are in the works at the community level, and we should be hearing more about all that in the weeks and months to come. In other words, just because our economy and outlook aren’t as stout as the cities north of us, that doesn’t mean we should just accept defeat.
Some of those potential initiatives could lead us toward creating momentum of our own.