Vail Daily column: Workforce report shows growing optimism | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Workforce report shows growing optimism

Chris Romer
Vail Valley Partnership
Vail, CO Colorado

A variety of local economic research is right at your fingertips at the Economic Research Center. Many reading this may ask, “the Economic what?”

The Economic Research Center is a project of the Vail Valley Partnership and the Economic Council of Eagle County and is home to a variety of research efforts. There is a plethora of information available to business owners, those looking to relocate a business in Eagle County or someone looking to expand their business.

The past few years have been challenging both locally and nationally. One constant remains: Businesses need data. The Economic Research Center has information on local economic indicators, demographics, labor force reports, local housing information and more. There are also helpful links to other entities that have research available to businesses, including the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry and all our local municipalities.

The Economic Council of Eagle County recently completed the 2012 Workforce Report for Eagle County. Since 2006, the Economic Council of Eagle County has asked employers on an annual basis about their business outlook, their employees, and their forecasts for the future. Complete results of this year’s survey are available at http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com.

The Economic Council invited employers to participate in this research by sending them an email link to an online survey. The Vail Valley Partnership and its member associations throughout the county included information and the survey link in their online newsletters, and area no-profit organizations were invited to weigh in as well.

“Cautious optimism” might be the best way to recap the feelings from the business community. For the first time since 2007, the report showed strength in the labor force with an increase in vacant jobs. In addition, nearly a third (30 percent) of respondents think the county economy is better off than last year – quite a change from the 2008-09 survey, when only 2 percent said the economy was better (and 89 percent said things looked worse). Respondents are feeling more optimistic about their own businesses, too – 86 percent say the outlook is “about the same” or “better,” compared to the 63 percent of respondents who gave that economic outlook last year.

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As we gaze into our crystal ball and try to predict the future, employers have done a pretty good job over the last few years forecasting Eagle County’s economy. There is a sense that things are looking up, with 39 percent seeing improving trends, and another 43 percent thinking that the economy will be about the same. Only 9 percent say “things are getting worse,” and the same number aren’t venturing any guesses (9 percent responded “don’t know”).

As part of the survey, we asked employers, “What are your predictions for 2012, specifically for your business?” There’s still some lingering uncertainty; 6 percent say they don’t know what next year will bring. About the same percentage think their business will be worse off next year, the lowest negative rating since we began asking this question. Two in five are predicting “the same,” and another two in five say they predict improving trends for2012-13.

Some key conclusions from the 2012 Workforce Survey:

• Employers are positive. They see improving trends both for their own businesses and for the county as a whole.

• Housing is starting to be on the radar again as a workforce issue. Employers believe that as the economy ramps up again, the need for workforce housing will, too.

• Providing health insurance for employees is a major challenge.

• Layoffs have slowed down, it’s a little harder to find employees, and there are some vacant positions.

• The H-2B visa program is no longer an effective source for hiring employees.

• Transportation should stay on the “watch list” as a potential difficulty for employees.

• There is a growing appreciation of the interconnectedness of towns in the valley, and the potential benefits of working together to strengthen the economy.

As always, I encourage all member businesses to get engaged with the Partnership and to contact us with any suggestions you may have to help us better serve you and for non-members to join the Partnership. Call us at 970-476-1000 or stop by our offices in Avon at Traer Creek Plaza to share your feedback.

Chris Romer is executive director of the Vail Valley Partnership