Experts explore future of job growth

Event puts focus on state’s economic development

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The news was mostly positive and upbeat at this year’s annual economic forecast breakfast, hosted by the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce Dec. 13 and attended by nearly 800 area business and civic leaders.

After brief opening remarks from Chamber President John Brackney — who encouraged “everyone in this room to be economic developers” — and chamber Chairman-elect Rick Whipple — who touted the Chamber’s ongoing efforts around the state to promote the “Fix the Debt” campaign — the main presentation kicked off with an update from Ken Lund, director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

“Colorado will never be a big financial center like New York but we can be the place that is the most innovative, the most entrepreneurial,” said Lund, whose speech highlighted the importance of cultivating an educated, talented workforce.

Dr. Richard Wobbekind, a University of Colorado economist, delivered an encouraging forecast for 2014. Noting that Colorado was among the top seven states in terms of current population growth, Wobbekind predicted Colorado will create 61,000 new jobs next year.

“Almost every sector is growing,” he said, adding that commodity prices have benefitted the agricultural and energy sectors in particular and that foreclosure rates across the state “have really dropped and are now a non-issue.”

Dr. Martin Shields, a Colorado State University economics professor, painted a picture not quite a rosy as those who preceded him, saying, “This is as good as it’s going to get for a while.”

Despite forecasting that 26,000 to 30,000 new jobs are coming to the Denver area in 2014, pushing down the unemployment rate to 5.9 percent, Shields pointed out that “a lot of families are still struggling financially — and so are the businesses that rely on those families’ paychecks.”

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