Vail Daily column: A deep dive into the Eagle County economy
Eagle County covers approximately 1,700 square miles of mountainous terrain in the central Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Census data indicates a total population of 53,605, which is up 28 percent from the 2000 census and up 3 percent since 2010.
Like the rest of the Rocky Mountain rural resort area, Eagle County is deeply rooted economically in the resort industry and tourism. Employment is heavily centered in the accommodation and food services; arts, entertainment and recreation; construction; and retail trade sectors. However, a wide-variety of job sectors are well-represented in the county, including health care and social services; and real estate, finance, and insurance. Almost half — 48 percent — of Eagle County residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, which is substantially higher than state — 37 percent — or national — 29 percent— rates.
The median household income in Eagle County is $73,774, a 4 percent increase from 2010, and monthly unemployment rates have been about 4 percent or less for over the past 12 months. Retail sales in 2014 exceeded $2.3 billion.
Our projected county population is forecast to grow 10 percent from 2010-2020 and 31 percent by 2030. Important from a demographic and community standpoint, Eagle County is aging. That is, age groups above 65 years are forecast to grow disproportionately faster than those below 65 years. Both the younger population — under 25 — as well as the family age group of 25-44 are projected to become a somewhat smaller proportion of the county’s total residents from 2010 to 2030.
While all age groups are expected to gain population by 2030, the highest growth relative to current status comes in the older adult segment. Adults 65 and older are about 6 percent of the population currently, and that segment is expected to make up 13 percent of the total by 2020 and 16 percent by 2030. Aging in place and by in-migration contribute to the growth in older age groups.
What the study shows
As for other economic indicators, we’ve seen an uptick in retail sales, lodging occupancy, housing sales and dollar volume of housing sales and we’ve seen a consistent decrease in enplanements at Eagle County Regional Airport. School enrollment grew 17 percent from 2007-2013 and continues to grow with record enrollment in 2016. Labor force participation, employment numbers and average weekly wages show continued growth throughout the past few years.
While the metrics remain solid, our annual workforce study shows business owners and managers have reduced confidence about the economy in general and their own business health when compared to the 2014-15. A modest decline was seen among respondents in terms of opinions regarding current conditions versus the previous year. Optimistic predictions for the upcoming year declined more dramatically, especially for the Eagle County economy in general.
This can be attributed in part due to frustration with workforce housing, which continues to grow and is substantially higher than in 2014-15. In fact, negative opinions about housing are higher than ever found in the history of conducting the workforce survey. More than 2 out of 3 respondents feel that the housing situation negatively impacts their ability to hire and retain employees and this issue was mentioned frequently when asked about additional resources that are needed.
We invite you explore the Eagle County economy in more detail by joining Vail Symposium and Vail Valley Partnership for the next program in our ongoing Vail Valley Business Forum Series: “State of the Eagle County Economy” at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards on Wednesday from 8 to 10 a.m.
The program will provide an overview of Eagle County’s economy and leading economic indicators, followed by a panel discussion with local leaders including Brent McFall (Eagle County), Michael Glass (Alpine Bank), Trevor Theelke (Land Title Guarantee Co.), Rachel Lunney (Northwest Colorado Council of Governments), and Mike Pearson (NAI Mountain Commercial).
These panelists — a diverse group representing local government, financial services, real estate (commercial and residential) and regional economic development – will provide insights into their markets and answer questions from the audience.
Learn more and RSVP at http://www.vailvalleypartnershipcom/events/business-forum-series/.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.