Published: April 11, 2024

The Business Research Division has served communities across the state for more than 100 years.

A stack of the Business Economic Outlook Forum booklets from 2023.

When you read the business forecast report published annually by the Business Research Division (BRD) at the Leeds School of Business, you’ll see data points from every corner and pocket of Colorado. It represents the business landscape in its entirety—small, family-owned restaurants and farms, to global corporations and every business venture between.  

To contribute to the state’s economic prosperity and thriving business community, BRD makes a deliberate effort to provide every sector with the tools they need to be successful.  

“We feel that the University of Colorado is an extremely important part of the state economy, and we think it is extremely important that we analyze the economy, and we give people actionable information so that they can lead better lives through education,” said Richard Wobbekind, Leeds associate dean of business and government relations and senior economist. “What we're doing is taking the information we produce to the people.” 

Leeds’ BRD has been around for more than a century, nearly as long as the business school itself. From its inception, the division prioritized community engagement—its work is co-created with the Colorado communities it serves. 

“It is a long-running unit within this school of business that was really designed to interface with the broader business community in terms of both presenting material and doing research projects,” Wobbekind said.  

“Beyond doing individual projects for companies or local governments and forecasting projects like the annual outlook report, more broadly we disseminate our information in a wide variety of channels and a lot of that information is available for free on our website. In many ways, it is about the access to trusted business information.” 

They're working on an economic dashboard that lives on the site that provides a barometer of key economic indicators in the state, with an emphasis on recent economic developments and the resulting impacts and implications on the Colorado economy. It will provide a handful of charts with brief analysis and be updated as key data are released. 

Gold bar section divider

“The work that we do is raising the quality of life in the state, one person at a time, one business at a time.”

Richard Wobbekind, Leeds associate dean of business and government relations and senior economist

The center publishes a quarterly Leeds Business Confidence Index, which gauges Colorado business leaders’ opinions about the economy and how their industry will perform in the coming quarter. Additionally, it produces the Colorado Business Review, which provides specific analysis on a particular topic or industry, and the Quarterly Business and Economic Indicators report, produced in conjunction with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office to reveal the correlations between various business filing data and economic metrics. BRD has been partnering with the secretary of state’s office since 2011. 

They are also a resource for conducting research studies on specific areas, entities and industries. For example, the recent University of Colorado 2023 Economic Impact Study and the 2019 Colorado Natural and Organic Industry Study.  

Just released is a report on the nonprofit industry, completed with the Colorado Nonprofit Association. It showed that nonprofits contributed $62 billion to the state’s annual economy and supported 262,000 jobs. 

Commitment to Colorado 

Aerial photo of an Ouray, Colorado, street with mountains looming.Wobbekind and Brian Lewandowski, executive director of the BRD, deliver frequent presentations to the business community and the community-at-large all over the state, both virtually and in person.  

“We really try to disseminate the work that we do and the information we collect to a wide variety of audiences both geographically and industry-wise,” Wobbekind said. “Whether we’re talking about the economy to the nonprofit community or hospitals or healthcare groups, we are customizing that information and making it useful.” 

He continued, “We share general information, but when we are in Northern Colorado, we are highlighting data that is important to Weld and Larimer counties, and when we’re in Grand Junction, for instance, we’re highlighting important industries in that geographic area like agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, natural resources and mining.”  

The BRD will celebrate the release of its 60th forecast report in December 2024 at its Annual Colorado Business Economic Outlook Forum. There’s always an in-person kickoff with webinars and virtual opportunities for alumni and business leaders. Again, accessibility is key to effectiveness and true impact. 

“The annual report features input from more than 130 business and government contributors from around the state of Colorado, so part of the annual kickoff is highlighting all of this work and data collection, but the ultimate goal is converting it all to usable data for business and government decision-making,” Wobbekind said. 

Serving through teamwork  

Three people make up the BRD team: Wobbekind, Lewandowski and Adam Illig, the BRD’s data scientist.  

The division also hires five to seven undergraduate students, many of them Leeds students, to help proofread the annual report and create data charts. The students help keep the tone of the report engaging and accessible, and they learn how to interpret data and other useful economic research skills along the way.  

Often, the annual report contributors around the state include CU and Leeds alumni. Wobbekind describes how helpful it has been over the years when Leeds MBA graduates contribute to their research projects, lending invaluable perspective from their vantage points working across the Colorado business landscape.  

It is a true collaboration for Colorado and with Colorado, because everyone involved cares about the people and ultimate prosperity of the state. 

“We're really trying to help people across the state of Colorado understand the economy better, understand the environment they're operating in better to make better decisions,” Wobbekind said.  

In the media, they are frequently called upon as experts at making sense of the economy’s twists and turns, including fluctuations in the housing market, unemployment and rate of business formation. 

“I think what we’re doing, the work that we do is raising the quality of life in the state, one person at a time, one business at a time. We're helping the state be more successful. We are helping the government and business leaders be more effective at their jobs with spending and hiring. And we’re helping people be prepared for the things that we see as potential clouds on the horizon so they can be ready for change.”