Experts At Vectra Bank’s Annual Economic Update Forecast a Strong Economy, but Caution Businesses Must Change with Younger Workforce

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Economists Forecast Continued Growth in Colorado but Site Shifting Demographics and State Budget Crunch Will Play a Large Role Business Planning

Positive economic factors at the same time will pose challenges for Colorado’s businesses

At Vectra Bank Colorado's 22nd Annual Economic Forecast Update, economic experts forecasted continued growth for Colorado, but cautioned that businesses must make changes to attract “best and brightest” employees in a tight employment market, expensive housing market.

Economists Patricia Silverstein, president of Development Research Partners; Henry Sobanet, Colorado’s Director of the Office of State Planning & Budgeting; and Elizabeth Garner, Demographer, State of Colorado, provided insight yesterday on the economic growth and big changes facing Denver and Colorado.

The economy continues to strengthen for Colorado, with single family home prices surpassing the $325 thousand mark in the Denver area. While employment dipped in Colorado last year, due in part to plummeting oil prices and production, the health of the economy remains healthy with a 4 percent unemployment rate.

Those positive economic factors at the same time will pose challenges for Colorado’s businesses, as they try to attract the top-tier candidates for jobs in a market where housing is not all that affordable. Beyond the tight housing market, companies in Colorado may need to “reinvent” themselves to attract the new, largest generation of workers—the Millennials.

Patricia Silverstein touched on how, already, much of the real estate and FastTrack’s development is catering to this group, which just this year outnumbered Baby Boomers. This generation is independent, wants flexibility, mobility and an urban lifestyle. And many of these workers are now beginning to make money in their jobs and are looking to move out of their parents homes. Those shifts are just one reason we are seeing more, higher density, multi-family real estate being built.

Elizabeth Garner reminded business owners that, while “sometimes the Baby Boomers laugh at the Millennials,” and vice versa, “it will be important for businesses to look at how they must bridge that gap to take advantage of everything the Millennials bring to the table…as well as taking advantage of what the Boomers have in terms of institutional knowledge.”

Reminding the participants that economic growth in the state has not been uniform, Henry Sobanet touched on how the rural areas of the state lagged the Denver Metro area and are also making necessary changes to boost their economies. Change in natural gas prices, pull back of large rural employers and declined military spending all played a role in the challenging economic environments outside of Metro Denver.

All three economists hit home the monumental importance of the new, largest Colorado workforce population, the 18 to 34-year old Millennial. Called the “most educated population in history” by Silverstein, for the first time this group outnumbers Baby Boomers in the workforce, as that population begins to retire. With that “flip flop”, each of these large populations will have very different and growing needs over the next 10 years.

“There’s really a good news/bad news story to the economy,” said Vectra Bank Colorado President and CEO Bruce Alexander. “While there’s incredible optimism around the state’s economy, the high housing prices make it harder for businesses to find quality employees. More than that, with Millennials taking over as the majority workforce population, businesses may have to change how they do business to attract and keep these employees.”

Also touched on as an area of great importance is Colorado’s growing Hispanic population, expected to grow to 30 to 35 percent of the entire state population. With different spending patterns and purchasing needs, “anybody that doesn’t pay attention to the Latino and Hispanic market is going to miss a big opportunity,” added Alexander.

Sobanet also reminded business participants that the state’s large aging population will require “formulaic increases to the state budget,” which has an already taxed Medicaid budget. With TABOR in place, any increases in tax revenue will likely have to be returned to the voters during this time when budgetary spending is capped, but more budget is needed to manage this aging population.

As part its ongoing commitment to nonprofit organizations that teach financial education or help small businesses, as part of the event, Vectra Bank announced a $5,000 donation to Young Americans Center for Financial Education.

This year, 560 of Denver business leaders attended the invite-only economic forecast update, while more than 150 watched the conference online through a live webcast. Events are also planned for Boulder and around the state throughout the year. Speaker presentations, a full video of the breakfast and individual speaker sound bites can be found at http://www.vectrabank.com/denver.

With assets of $2.7 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. Member FDIC.

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Meghan Dougherty