Romer: A peek into Eagle County’s economy
Economic vitality and community resilience are a team effort. Local businesses, governments and residents must all play an active and ongoing role in positively influencing positive economic change.
Economic development efforts must focus on how to promote the long-term economic health of Eagle County and seek to solidify an economic base that is strong, diverse, and resilient. Economic development is about building sustainable communities that can thrive indefinitely.
We must aim to strengthen our economy in diverse, collaborative, and sustainable ways that fit the particular context of our individual communities; a focus on workforce development, training, and professional growth is key to strengthening our businesses and our economy.
Some quick facts and takeaways to better understand Eagle County’s economy:
- Our population is 55,577. The population grew by 2,253 over the last five years and is projected to grow by another 1,676 over the next 5 years.
- Jobs increased by 10.9% in Eagle County from 33,290 to 36,924 between 2014 and 2019. This equates to 3,634 jobs and we are projected to grow by over 3,139 more over the next five years. This change outpaced the national growth rate of 6.9% by 4.0%. As the number of jobs increased, the labor force participation rate increased from 75.0% to 84.4% between 2014 and 2019.
- Concerning educational attainment, 34.9% of Eagle County residents possess a bachelor’s degree (16.1% above the national average), and 9.1% hold an associate’s degree (1% above the national average).
- Not surprisingly, the top industries in 2019 are accommodations and food services; construction; retail trade; and arts, entertainment and recreation. Interestingly, and maybe more surprisingly, our top growing occupations include construction, transportation, health care, office administration, and sales.
- It is also important to understand that Eagle County is driven by small businesses; 96.7% of businesses have less than 50 employees and over 84% of businesses have less than 20 employees.
What, exactly, does any of this mean, and why is it important to understand these trends moving forward?
Our businesses are stressed, yet they remain optimistic. For employers, 58% of jobs stay open more than two months and 39% of businesses report open jobs are increasing. Despite this, 76% of businesses plan to add jobs in 2020 and businesses are generally optimistic about the Eagle County economy.
This optimism leads to an environment where 75% of businesses plan to expand in the next three years, yet 66% of businesses report having employee recruitment challenges and 49% expect federal or state regulations to have a negative impact on their business.
Addressing these seemingly conflicting data points are why we must increasingly focus on workforce development efforts and professional training opportunities to meet the needs of our business community. Workforce development doesn’t just focus on the business but also on individuals. Through workforce development, individuals receive training that increases their competency and makes them a greater asset in meeting the needs of our business community.
Workforce development programs are focused on the future of a community where both individuals and businesses see benefits. Workforce programs and events — including events on Jan. 23 (employee burnout), Jan. 28 (early childhood), and Jan. 30 (skill-based hiring) — are initiatives that train individuals and businesses in order to maintain a sustainable competitive economic environment.
Workforce development efforts in our community need to focus on recognizing industry needs, and at the same time meeting individual needs by considering the many barriers to both individuals and business and the overall needs of our region moving forward.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at www.vailvalleypartnership.com.
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