Vail Daily column: Economic indicators remain positive
To paraphrase Francis Bacon, knowledge and information are power. Understanding our local economy — trends, metrics, population forecasts, demographics and more — helps our business community better understand our resort economy. In turn, this helps our municipalities and special districts better serve their citizens.
Knowledge and information on our economy are available to our community through the research output from Vail Valley Partnership and Vail Valley Economic Development (formerly Economic Council of Eagle County). It is important for decision makers at the community and the individual business level to understand the impact of change on our local economy. It’s equally important for everyone in our community to understand this impact.
Economic changes can happen over a long period of time (consider our relatively stable growth from the mid-’90s to 2007) or very quickly (think back to the third and fourth quarters of 2008).
Eagle County, by most metrics, is seeing positive economic signs as we enter our summer season. We certainly benefited from events such as the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships and Burton U.S. Open; lodging occupancies saw modest year-over-year growth, and average daily rates showed a robust increase throughout the valley. And while tourism growth is a great indicator, we have solid metrics showing economic growth in other areas.
Here’s a quick hit list of leading economic indicators and metrics courtesy of the most recent economic indicator report produced by Vail Valley Economic Development (the complete report can be found at http://www.visit vailvalley.com/upload/Economic Indicators_2015_Final_Webv2.pdf):
• Population in Eagle County is forecast to grow 14 percent from 2010 to 2020, 29 percent from 2020 to 2030 and 22 percent from 2030 to 2040 with projected population reaching over 92,000 by 2040 (source: Colorado State Demographer).
• Not surprisingly, population has grown fastest in Eagle and Gypsum.
• Eagle County is aging. Age groups above 65 years are forecast to grow disproportionately faster than those below 65. While the younger population (under 25) remains at about a third of the population, the “family age” group of 25-59 is projected to drop from 36 percent to 24 percent of the county’s residents from 2010 to 2030. Adults 60 and older are about 6 percent of the population currently, and that segment is expected to make up 12 percent of the total in 2020 and 15 percent by 2030.
• The Hispanic population continues to grow in Eagle County. Two-thirds of the county (67 percent) is white, non-Hispanic. Other races make up less than 4 percent of the population.
• Unemployment continues to drop from its peak of almost 10 percent in 2010 and is at its lowest levels since 2008, but is still slightly above the historic lows we saw from 2005-08.
• Retail sales tax collections continue to rebound and 2014 collections are about equal with the benchmark year of 2007.
• Real estate continues to show growth as well; 2014 sales volume was higher than any year dating back to 2007 and transactions grew 2 percent in 2014 while dollar volume of these transactions were up 27 percent over 2014, showing improved pricing power and strength in the higher markets.
• Enplanements at the Eagle County Regional Airport do not follow the positive trend we see with many other indicators as they have dropped 29 percent in the past seven years, in part due to airline consolidation and in part due to lost service. On a positive note, enplanements have stabilized in the past three years.
• School enrollments in Eagle County Schools have seen steady growth since 2007 with overall growth of 15 percent.
Additionally, we conduct our annual Workforce Study in an effort to solicit feedback and viewpoints of the private sector on economic trends and local workforce issues. Participation from all businesses — large and small, from all business industry segments — helps improve local decision making on big issues like affordable housing, workforce development, etc. Take the survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/EagleWF.
We encourage local businesses, prospective businesses and other stakeholders to reach out with any questions on the economic indicator report, annual workforce study or any other research conducted by the Partnership. Information is power and helps guide better decision making which benefits our entire community. Complete economic indicators and additional economic research can be found at VailValleyPartnership.com.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.