Colorado Economic Futures Survey
CU Business Advancement Center
This report is based on survey responses from thirty-four economic developers, small business developers, enterprise zones, revolving loan fund administrators, and chambers of commerce giving their opinions and expectations on the Colorado economy over the next five years (2000 - 2005).
Entrepreneurism - most positive economic trend
Choosing from a list of 12 economic trends, 94% of respondents expected entrepreneurism (small company start-ups) to have a positive influence on their local economy in the next five years. Higher paying technical jobs, international trade, e-commerce, technology industry growth, and tourism were also viewed as positive trends by 65% to 79% of respondents. Underemployment was identified as a negative trend by 42% of respondents, while 35% predicted a negative impact from rapid population increase. According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado looses 130,000 acres of agricultural land each year (approximately equivalent to a strip of land 1.5 miles wide and 130 miles long - about the distance from Ft. Collins to Colorado Springs. 32% of respondents identified conversion of land from agricultural to residential/commercial as a negative economic trend, while half of respondents thought it had no impact on the economy of their area. Almost 60% of respondents thought that large business relocation to Colorado had no impact on the economy in their area.
Property values and incomes benefit
Economic development also has both positive and negative impacts on quality of life. Most often economic growth was felt to be positive or expected to have no impact on quality of life. Almost 70% of respondents identified impacts on property values as a positive result of economic growth. Over 50% thought family incomes and local volunteerism/community support were positively affected. 35% of respondents thought economic growth would have negative impacts on commute time, 31% were concerned about impacts on air quality and 27% were concerned about water quality/availability.
Split decisions were evident in two areas: Almost 50% of respondents felt that development had no impact on open space, and the remainder were evenly split with 26% seeing negative impacts and 26% citing positive impacts. Similarly, 40% thought that development had no impact on personal mobility/transportation access, while the remainder were split with 30% seeing negative and 30% seeing positive impacts.
Respondents were very optimistic about the economic outlook in their area. No one predicted a decline in the coming year and 40% expect growth of 5% or more.
Critical infrastructure improvements
The three most critical infrastructure improvements needed to support economic growth over the next 5 years were highways, broadband telecommunications and adult retraining for technical careers.
Use of technology
Respondents felt that "technology" could best benefit their area economy by industry growth and supporting teleworking. Next most important were creating new products from agricultural produce/waste, improved manufacturing processes and new product development. Only one respondent thought that technology wouldn't help the local area.
CU-BAC was interested in knowing which of it's capabilities and services would be useful to Colorado economic and business development organizations. 30% of responding organizations identified database search services as useful to their organization, and 28% thought such services would be useful to others in their area. Industry studies were useful to 27% of organizations and 36% of areas. Focus group facilitation was thought to be useful to 35% of areas, and facilitation of collaborative partnerships was useful to 31% of areas. Other services of interest to areas were workforce skills assessments (36%) and assessments of business workforce needs (33%).
Comprehensive economic development plans
55% of respondents indicated that their area has a comprehensive economic development plan, while 15% had none, and 29% did not know whether such a plan existed. 21% of respondents indicated that an outside facilitator was used to help develop the plan, while 48% did not know whether an outside facilitator was used. Organizations regularly partnered with a variety of other public and private entities on economic development activities. Over half of respondents regularly partnered with chambers of commerce, state and city government, local economic development organizations and local businesses.
ONE Economic Goal
In an open-ended question, respondents were asked: "If communities and organizations in your area could accomplish just ONE thing in the next five years to support local economic health, what would it be?" The variety of goals clustered around the trends and priorities previously identified: 5 focused on telecommunications, 4 related to tax issues, 4 supported local business development strategies and the need for "living wage" jobs, 4 cited training, retraining and math/science education. Three identified highway and high-speed transportation, and three called for more coordination, specifically, communication between local EDC's and state government, and multi-jurisdictional economic development plans.
ONE Key Ingredient
Asked to name ONE ingredient (not currently available) that would be necessary to achieving their stated objective, respondents most often cited "funding," "cooperation, communication, & facilitation" and "telecommunication infrastructure." Other important ingredients were access to information (about available resources and assistance, success models) and analysis (workforce studies, and benefit analysis.)
Only one actually called for "a miracle."
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