Vail Daily column: No joke: State legislative issues impact our community |

Vail Daily column: No joke: State legislative issues impact our community

Colorado’s economy is on quite the roll. A quick review of, the state’s economic development website, shows high rankings for Colorado’s workforce (best state for labor supply, Forbes; highest number of people with bachelor’s degrees, U.S. Census Bureau), our business environment (4 of the top 10 cities for tech startups, Entrepreneur; top state for high-tech share of all businesses, U.S. Chamber of Commerce) and of course, the advantages of our lifestyle.

USA Today notes that Colorado’s business climate is among the best in the country, largely due to a strong labor market and an especially strong and progressive technology sector. These features are interwoven, as a highly educated workforce is essential for innovation. Nearly 38 percent of adults in Colorado have at least a bachelor’s degree, the second highest rate nationwide, and 14 percent of adults have completed a graduate or professional degree, a higher percentage than in all but a handful of states. The state’s population is projected to grow by 13.4 percent from 2010 through 2020 compared to an estimated national growth rate of 7.1 percent, which also contributes to a strong labor market. Nearly 22 percent of all jobs in Colorado were STEM positions, the seventh-highest proportion in the country.

The impact of legislation

A strong business environment is vital to the state and to our community, because as noted by 24/7 Wall Street, and according to Elise Gould, senior economist with nonprofit think tank the Economic Policy Institute, “most people move because of jobs.” Indeed, for many families on the move, the prospect of obtaining a job is often the most important — if not the only — consideration.

Maintaining a strong business environment is a challenge in Colorado as our state constitution is easily changed through the initiative process.

A few examples of recent legislation that our business community should be aware of:

The House recently passed HB-1275. It empowers the Colorado Department of Revenue to blacklist countries that it alleges are tax havens. Colorado corporations with subsidiaries or affiliates operating in these countries would then have to prove to the Department of Revenue that their operations are legitimate business activities and not attempts to shelter income from the Colorado corporate income tax. This legislation makes Colorado’s tax climate appear punitive and would put us at a disadvantage relative to other states.

No joke: House Bill 1275 will not make Colorado a better place to do business, which will cost us jobs and continued economic growth. Fortunately, this bill is likely to be killed in committee in the Senate, but it is an example of legislation that could create a negative business environment and change Colorado’s positive business environment and economic growth.

Workforce development is key to continued economic growth. The following are four bills of a workforce package that aim to start a pilot program to provide apprenticeship opportunities through high schools to address the business community’s growing talent demands.

HB16-1287: This bill requires the department of labor to conduct a study of what laws and regulations may impact the ability of employers to offer apprenticeship opportunities.

HB16-1288: This bill creates a matching grant program, funded up to $500,000 a year for three years, for trade associations or other nonprofits to develop generally accepted industry-specific competencies for apprenticeship programs.

HB16-1289: This bill creates a pilot program to provide an incentive of $1,000, funded at $1 million per year, to high schools for each student who completes an industry certificate, internship or pre-apprentice program in high-demand industries.

HB16-1301: This bill provides qualified employers with state income tax credits for retaining pre-apprentices (up to $2,500) and apprentices (up to $5,000), for a total of $1 million a year.

No joke: These workforce bills will help improve the connection between our school systems and the business community.

Vail Valley Partnership will continue to report to the local community and our members on issues of importance. We are especially focused on issues related to workforce (affordable) housing, transit (air and road), workforce development and rural broadband. Learn more about our efforts at

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.

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