Annual Vectra Bank Colorado Economic Outlook: Expert Panel Forecasts Slow and Steady Growth in 2012

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Economic Experts from Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs Say Minimal Consistent Growth: A Positive Considering Global Economic Uncertainty

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“With all of the challenges it is facing, the fact that the economy has continued to grow at a fairly steady or modest pace, in some sense could be considered very impressive,”

At Vectra Bank Colorado's 19th Annual Economic Forecast Breakfast titled "Addressing Economic Uncertainty in 2012,” experts from three Colorado markets forecast conservative, but steady growth for Colorado’s economy amid global economic uncertainty. National economic growth was forecast at a rate of approximately 2 percent, with employment rates growing at close to 1 percent.

Five region-specific experts spoke to more than 1,000 people in Denver, Colorado Springs and Boulder throughout a three-day economic forecast event schedule, January 18-20. Also for the first time since its inception, the Denver breakfast was webcast live for the public online. This year’s forecast breakfast for Denver featured Mark Snead, Vice President, Economist and Branch Executive for the Federal Reserve Bank Kansas City-Denver Branch; Patricia Silverstein, President of Development Research Partners and George Feiger, CEO, Contango Capital Advisors, who was also a speaker in the two other markets. Colorado Springs’ event hosted Thomas Zwirlein, Ph.D. Professor of Finance, Director, Southern Colorado Economic Forum, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and Boulder featured Phyllis Resnick, Ph.D. Center for Colorado’s Economic Future.

“One of Vectra’s goals is to be an active listener and observer of business and economic trends and share that information with our customers so that they can plan for success,” said Vectra Bank Colorado CEO Bruce Alexander. “This event in particular helps clients’ understand the trends and drivers that will impact their financial realities this year.”

While there are many potentially damaging unknowns that could affect the country’s steady economic growth, such as future fiscal policy, government and individual spending and debt, a lagging real estate market and the European debt crisis, the United States gross domestic product (GDP) is growing at an annual rate of 2 to 2.5 percent. On average, that kind of growth translates to a little over 1 percent employment growth per year.

“With all of the challenges it is facing, the fact that the economy has continued to grow at a fairly steady or modest pace, in some sense could be considered very impressive,” said Denver speaker and Federal Reserve economist, Mark Snead. “While we normally see surges in GDP and employment growth after a recession, considering the obstacles in place for the country, an annual two percent growth rate is an average growth rate.”     

Silverstein emphasized a “rebuild and remodel” strategy for businesses, stating that while small business can hope for clarity on the uncertainties of the market, they must chart their own paths of growth, ensuring their businesses do not stall waiting for the government/to get “fixed.”

Feiger echoed those sentiments for both businesses and individuals as well, citing that people should be monitoring the global issues closely and making both short- and long- term investment goals. He considered the most looming global issues to include the large debt and slow growth of the United States, the European debt crisis and sure financial crisis to come, issues with emerging markets around speculative bubbles and inflation, and what ties it all together—resource suppliers.

“Europe may be the primary risk for our country in 2012,” Snead added. Snead also cited the real estate market as a major drag on the U.S. economy and forecasted at least two to three selling cycles for the country to see home inventories selling off. Silverstein noted, however, that while the nation continues to hold a glut of empty real estate, Denver’s real estate market recovery has been outpacing the country, and she considers it on the brink of recovery.

After declining nearly 2 percent in 2010, Zwirlein forecasted that payrolls around El Paso County will increase upwards of 1.8 percent in 2012, and retail sales will rise 6 percent. The expansion of Fort Carson military base, which brought 6,500 new troops to the post in 2009, have helped soften some of recession’s negative impact over the last few years.

Resnick outlined for Boulder participants the impact of the rising cost of Medicaid, which is growing at a rate of 1.7 times revenue in Colorado, and how that revenue is being used to help the failing educational system. The rising costs of Medicaid and higher education and flat general fund growth, combined with a mill levy freeze and aging population, is forecasted by Resnick to leave no money in the budget for any other programs unless a tax increase is implemented.

Anyone interested in reading speakers’ presentations in full or to watch the taped webcast can visit http://www.vectrabank.com/denver.

With assets of $2.3 billion, Vectra Bank Colorado is a proactive, customer-focused organization dedicated to real relationship banking. Part of the Zions Bancorporation (NASDAQ:ZION) family of banks, Vectra serves Colorado’s small, middle-market and corporate business clients with 39 locations throughout Colorado, and one in Farmington, N.M. The bank’s website address is http://www.vectrabank.com.

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