The old adage “nothing remains constant except change itself” needs to be kept in mind when we seek to understand the challenges created by the rapid growth in Northern Colorado.
There is an upside and a downside to the growth in the economy of the region since the great recession. This general economic decline was during the late 2000s and early 2010s and was the worst global recession since World War II.
The Good News
The good news is, most businesses are seeing tremendous growth in their industries. During the great recession, the Loveland Chamber’s membership was at an all-time low. Today, the Chamber has grown to 600+ members and is now a strong, vibrant asset to the Loveland community.
With the growth in the local economy, comes higher housing prices. This is a positive aspect, if you happen to be a realtor or a real estate investor. If you are a business owners and your employees can’t afford housing, you have a problem. To be considered affordable, housing costs should be 30% or less of the monthly income for a household. In Loveland, residents are spending 40.4% of their gross income on housing; in Fort Collins the average is 59.8%. When households are able to keep their housing costs less than 30% they naturally have more funds to spend on dining out, entertainment, clothing and major purchases. This is a concern that needs to be addressed on a national level.
Businesses are thriving and are in need of a skilled workforce. Over the last five years, the Fort Collins-Loveland economy added almost 20,000 jobs but only 11,000 workers. Finding qualified instructors to teach courses that support high-demand occupations is one challenge the region faces.
Approximately one-quarter of all workers in the Fort Collins-Loveland Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) are 55+. The anticipated grey tsunami will leave a void of 6,000 jobs that baby boomers will be vacating. Employers will need to start succession planning now to prepare for the loss of those key employees.
A Step Towards Solutions
The Loveland Chamber has joined forces with the City of Loveland, the City of Fort Collins, the Larimer County Workforce Center, the Fort Collins Chamber, Larimer County, NCEA and the United Way to develop the Talent 2.0 Regional Workforce Strategy. This is a study that assesses the region’s workforce and a plan to address the future workforce needs in Northern Colorado. The plan was developed at a cost of $60,000. Apprenticeship programs, which have been used for centuries to transfer skills from one generation to another, could be a viable direction to explore.
Housing costs, workforce, infrastructure, good schools, quality of life, and the cost-of-living are a few areas that businesses look at when making relocation decisions. To attract and retain these businesses, changes need to be implemented before the issues become insurmountable.
Most people don’t concern themselves with infrastructure until there are serious issues. The growth in the region has been so significant that the State of Colorado can no longer ignore its infrastructure needs in Northern Colorado. Past funding allocated for transportation needs have been very minimal, as a result the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance has worked feverishly over the last 3 years to garner the States attention to find solutions to funding I-25 projects. Partnering with area municipalities, CDOT, and the State we have successfully secured 300 million for I-25 projects in the region, such as the climb lane at Berthoud Hill, Cross Road exchange, the third lane between Fort Collins and Loveland and the 402 exchange.
Another infrastructure need that has surfaced due to the growth in our area is Broadband.
Loveland Broadband Initiative has been in full force since the voters passed the ballot initiative to study the options of making broadband a City utility. The City Council will be viewing the options available and will determine the best course of action to insure our community has adequate broadband capability.
An expected amenity for businesses relocating to an area is having broadband in place. The approval of the broadband initiative puts Loveland ahead of the game when trying to attract and retain businesses.
Overall, significant strides have been made to keep up with the issues that come with a growing economy. That doesn’t mean there aren’t huge challenges ahead with the continued growth in the region. The Loveland Chamber will continue to be an involved, on numerous levels, to help develop solutions for these regional issues.