Chamber economic wizard and new RTD Chairman Doug Tisdale, third from left, visits with former Mayor of Centennial Randy Pye, left, at the recent South Metro Denver Chamber breakfast. Photos by Bob Sweeney
BY JAN WONDRA
Dr. Richard Wobbekind
The South Metro Denver Chamber’s 2018 Economic Forecast breakfast on Jan. 19 attracted a cross-section of Denver business leaders and local government officials to a standing-room-only economic convocation.
Business leaders may not be unerring prognosticators, however.
An informal poll taken near the end of the session, asking whether the U.S. government would actually shut down, revealed about three fourths of the room thought no such thing would happen. A quarter of the room, which appeared to be younger—possibly more pragmatic, millennial-era business people—thought that it would.
Obviously, they were right.
Otherwise, the consensus on 2018 appears to be positive.
Robert Golden, president and CEO of South Metro Denver Chamber with CU Vice-President Michele McKinney.
Moderated by Pete Casillas, publisher of Denver Business Journal, the panel of four speakers represented diverse aspects of the economy at the state and national level.
“Frankly, we’re going through some big changes with unknown impacts,” said Dr. Richard Wobbekind, senior associate dean for academic programs at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business and a member of Colorado’s Regional Council of Governments’ Forecast Advisory Committee. “We’ll see real (gross domestic product) growth in the 2.8 percent range. We’re getting an unknown boost from the tax stimulus. But we face a rising interest rate environment, so we’re starting to see some inflation.”
Wobbekind said Colorado’s job-growth ranking has been revised down, but for a practical reason.
“The biggest single factor here is there is nobody to hire,” he said. “Every job sector is saying they can’t find qualified workers and we’re seeing a slowing of migration into the state. We were No. 2 or 3 nationally in inbound migration, but we’re currently at No. 10. The census is going to revise inbound migration down again. There is a strong national labor market, so people aren’t moving away from local unemployment.”
Wobbekind said the state will continue to see solid growth if it can keep up with the need for skilled workers.
“This isn’t about adding CPAs or cyber-security workers or such,” he said.
“It’s about whether this state can train and keep more plumbers, electricians, the skilled trades. What’s true nationally is true here. Nationally, we have the most unfilled job openings that we have ever seen in the national job survey.”
Wobbekind reassured business leaders that job gains should continue and that Arapahoe and Douglas counties are getting a solid share of the employment growth. He cautioned that while the highest percentage the state’s job growth over the past year has been in mining and logging, it is on a small base.
David Schlatter, Chamber director, with program speaker Tim Jones, Missouri legislator.
Arapahoe and Douglas are projected to see a 5 percent or more growth rate in professional and business service jobs, including financial and information services. The area also has a high concentration of construction-company headquarters. “While Broomfield has the highest concentration of corporate headquarters, overall Arapahoe and Douglas counties are seeing high average wage increases per household,” Wobbekind said.
Wobbekind had two cautions for the Denver-south area:
First, infrastructure is going to have to expand to accommodate growth, including all modes of transportation.
Second, the area is facing housing-affordability challenges, which can affect schools and local services.
“We have the second-worst ratio in the country between housing and job wages behind D.C.,” Wobbekind said. “This isn’t just concerning, it’s serious. When housing costs get out of sync with wages, there is a direct impact on regional growth.”
Next week: Maya MacGuineas, president, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, who traveled from Washington, D.C. for the Economic Forecast Breakfast.
Joining Innovation Pavilion President, Vic Ahmed, center, are Dennis Houston, CEO of Parker Area Chamber of Commerce, and Daniel Kelly, director of business development for Softer Solutions. The next Innovation Pavilion location is being developed in Parker. The tech-focused co-working organization held an entrepreneurial-focused gathering Jan. 18 at its Centennial headquarters, attracting nearly 200 business start-up and economic-development leaders, investors and local government officials. Photo by Jan Wondra
Jeff Holwell, economic director for Lone Tree, with team members City Manager Seth Hoffman and Mayor Jackie Millet.
Chamber membership chairman and Centennial City Councilmember, Kathy Turley with mayor pro tem Ken Lucas.
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