Survey says: Job market to grow in 1997

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An annual survey reported good news for the Colorado Springs market — both for employers and the workforce.

The Chamber of Commerce’s annual year-end business climate survey found that most employers are planning to grow and are satisfied with Colorado Springs.

Of 405 surveys sent to employers in manufacturing, service, research and development, retail, and marketing and distribution, 95, or 23%, responded. That figure is up significantly from last year’s 14% and down slightly from 1994’s response rate of 28%.

Of the 95 respondents, 65% planned to add a total of 953 jobs in the next 12 months; 71% planned to add employees in the next three to five years, bringing the total to 1,599 new jobs. The jobs are primarily in the manufacturing, R&D, insurance, and telecommunications industries.

This year only 2% of the respondents forecast employment cuts with the total job loss down slightly from last year’s 130 to 80 lost jobs.

Tom Daschbach, senior vice president of the Office of Business and Industry Development, said that overall the results are very optimistic.

“They indicate a relatively high level of confidence in Colorado Springs and the community’s efforts to support existing industry,” he said.

Even with the addition of employees, only 20% of survey participants plan to expand and none of the expansions required land acquisition.

Ninety percent of the businesses rated the business climate as “excellent” to “good,” down slightly from last year’s 92.8% favorable rating. The climate scored “fair” for 8%, up from 1995’s 5.5%, and “poor” for only 2%, approximately the same as last year’s rating.

The most helpful aspects of the business climate were rated on a scale of one to five. The Business Climate Initiatives Group (BIG) was rated as the most helpful. BIG visits with more than 300 companies per year and identifies problems impeding growth and retention of businesses and jobs. The group, made up entirely of volunteers, then makes reports to various City departments that take care of as many of the problems as they can.

“It shows how effective a program full of business volunteers can be to a city and a business climate,” said Alexa Conway, BIG’s 1995 chairwoman.

An example of BIG’s effectiveness is the redesigning of the traffic lights at the Woodmen Road and Interstate 25 interchange, accomplished by the City’s traffic engineering department. MCI employees at Tiffany Square were having difficulty getting to and from work as businesses moved to buildings near the busy interchange and traffic increased.

The survey also revealed a shift in importance on the quality of life in the Springs. Last year it was given the highest factor for doing business in the area. This year it ranked ninth out of 22 contributing factors. Cost of living and cost of energy were most important to businesses.