Vail Valley Partnership CEO: Eagle County Workforce Study provides insights into local businesses (column) | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Partnership CEO: Eagle County Workforce Study provides insights into local businesses (column)

Chris Romer
Vail Valley Partnership

Our economy has grown every quarter but two since 2009, making the current economic expansion one of the longest ever.

Business activity has not slowed; labor markets are tight, and yet businesses continue to demand workers. The Fed is tapping the brakes, and rate hikes are already apparent in the housing market but have yet to shape household behavior.

The national economy is exposed to the risks associated with trade wars, while the local economy is exposed to the risks inherent with seasonal weather. Snowfall and natural events such as wildfire continue to impact tourism.

Whew — there's a lot to take in.

What's a business to do? How can elected officials and other stakeholders determine good policy amidst all of the noise?

Fortunately, Vail Valley Economic Development and Vail Valley Partnership have recently released the results of our annual workforce study. The study surveys local businesses — and has for the past 12 years — to help cut through the clutter and provide insight into the issues facing our business community.

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Some conclusions from the 2017-18 Workforce Survey:

• Business owners and managers predict a negative change in the economy in general for the upcoming year.

• This was also true for the vitality of individual businesses, but the magnitude of the negative trend was smaller. Similarly, a modest decline in optimism from respondents regarding current economic conditions in Eagle County in general and current views on the health of their own business also moved in a negative direction.

• After five years of declines, predictions about the ability to hire and retain employees in the upcoming year held relatively steady in the current survey year.

• Frustration with a lack of housing continues to grow and moved in a negative direction in 2017-18. Negative opinions about housing are higher than ever found in the history of conducting the survey. More than three out four businesses feel the housing situation negatively impacts their ability to hire and retain employees and this issue was mentioned frequently when asked about barriers to growing their business in the community.

• Over half of the businesses feel their employees have a negative opinion of the availability of affordable child care which is an issue that was introduced to the survey for the first time in 2016-17.

• About one out of four businesses believe that a lack of child care impedes their ability to hire and retain employees.

• Over half of the businesses feel their employees have a negative opinion of the availability of affordable health care, an issue that was introduced to the survey for the first time this year. More than one-third of businesses believe that lack of affordable health care negatively impacts their ability to hire and retain employees. However, a number of the businesses provide comprehensive coverage and 31 percent of respondents say their employees have a positive experience on this issue.

The workforce study offers key insights into some of Eagle County's largest issues and areas preventing economic growth: housing, health care, child care, among others. Elected officials, candidates for office and interested stakeholders should note the increased pessimism in the business community due to these challenges.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com.