BOULDER – More than 300 of Boulder’s top business, nonprofit and political leaders gathered at UCAR recently to glimpse forecasts for 2017 national, state, and Boulder economies.
Predictions are strongly positive for Colorado and Boulder County, according to economic experts at the 2017 Boulder Economic Forecast: Boulder and Beyond.
The annual forecast, hosted by the Boulder Economic Council (BEC) and the Boulder Chamber at UCAR, is one of the most anticipated events of the year. Moderated by BEC Executive Director Clif Harald, sponsors included Elevations Credit Union as presenting sponsor and RE/MAX of Boulder among supporting sponsors.
Colorado is the second fastest growing state for percentage of population increase and the fifth fastest state in the nation for rate of job growth, said keynote speaker Dr. Richard Wobbekind of CU-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.
He said most of Colorado’s projected population growth is along the Front Range – as much as 96 percent. In job growth, the state’s No. 1 and 2 industries are leisure and hospitality, and education and health, respectively.
Strong employment is fueling robust retail sales and sales tax coffers, which benefit state, city and municipal funding.
Wobbekind said the national economy is expected to be strong with increases forecasted across labor participation, household wealth, consumer confidence and home prices.
In addition, the dollar is strong.
He did express a note of caution about the recent and expected continuation of interest rate increases, since higher interest rates can spur inflation. But projected interest rate increases remain low compared to higher rates historically, he added.
On a local level, the City of Boulder is moving ahead in economic growth – outperforming the nation and Colorado, according to presenter Brian Lewandowski, associate director of the Business Research Division at CU-Boulder Leeds School of Business.
Citing Boulder’s primary employer-driven economy as a driver for the city’s steady economic growth, Lewandowski said key employers include IBM, Celestial Seasonings, Medtronic, Zayo, Ball Aerospace and AstraZeneca.
Lewandowski said Boulder continues to have a highly educated population, noting that 73 percent of adults in Boulder hold a Bachelor’s degree compared with 30 percent nationwide. Most of Boulder’s jobs are in professional and technical services.
Next, a panel of three executives from Google Boulder, Boulder Brands and AstraZeneca were asked for insight by Boulder Economic Council Executive Director Clif Harald.
Harald asked panelists about “attributes of Boulder most important to your business” and “risks Boulder faces in sustaining economic vitality.”
AstraZeneca Site Director Darren Dasburg noted Boulder’s strong talent base, highly educated in the biosciences, along with a pipeline of well-educated students from CU Boulder as significant for AstraZeneca. He added that retention of employees is key.
In risk factors, Dasburg cited the need for skilled tradespeople to carry out plant renovations and maintain quality construction.
Google Boulder Site Director Scott Green said the availability of a talented workforce is important to Google, as well as collaboration and support from the technology and broader communities.
From a risk perspective, he noted the tendency for technology companies to “eat their own” and added that Google needs to be aware of that trait.
Boulder Brands Executive Vice President and President Michael Allen said Boulder is the center of the progressive food movement, adding that the community itself is unique in its citizens’ lifestyle, focus on health, and understanding of natural, healthy food.
Allen considers Boulder’s high cost of living to be a potential risk, including high home prices and the cost of relocation.
To see a copy of Dr. Wobbekind’s presentation visit the Boulder Economic Council website at: bouldereconomiccouncil.org/bec_publications/presentation-by-dr-richard-wobbekind-2017-economic-forecast-boulder-beyond. For real estate market statistics and data from RE/MAX of Boulder, visit boulderco.com/blog.