Business indicators need to move up and to the right

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Down and to the right is not a good thing.

The “Growing a Vibrant Economy” chapter of the 2009 Quality of Life Indicators is a report compiled by volunteers in the community and sponsored by the Pikes Peak United Way and Leadership Pikes Peak. It will be published in August and is shaping up to be dismal. 

In 2001, Colorado Springs ranked 140 out of 363 metropolitan areas in economic productivity.  Since 2001, the Springs has dropped 27 slots and now ranks at 167.  Economic productivity is defined as the gross metropolitan product per capita or how much economic output Colorado Springs gets per person. 

To put it in perspective with other cities: Des Moines, Iowa, moved up from ranking 19th in 2001 to 13th in 2006 and Omaha, Neb., moved up five spots from 47th to 42nd.

And if you needed more unflattering news, the Angelou Economics consultants reported that the number of Colorado Springs residents in the sought-after 25-to-44 age bracket has decreased from 31.5 percent of our population in 2001 to 28.8 percent in 2007.  The benchmark for this age group for economic development is 30 percent of the population.

‘Down and to the right’ is a term for charts and graphs that are showing progressive losses, and that’s the pattern Colorado Springs is caught in.

Something can be done to reverse these ugly trends.  Attract high-paying jobs.

One prospect was a solar module manufacturing company with 350 new jobs averaging $51,040 with a 450,000-square-foot facility. Nope, missed this one in 2008 due to lack of incentives.

Another prospect was a German bioscience company’s manufacturing plant and headquarters with 30 new jobs, average wage unknown – but probably pretty high, considering the high-tech nature of the business. The jobs went to New Jersey.  Again, the lack of incentives was the key reason for the snub.

The city’s 2009 strategic plan states, “In conjunction with Colorado Springs Utilities, the city will research, develop and propose an economic development incentives plan.”

This city needs strong, forward-thinking council members to lead economic development.  That will ensure our city is as competitive as possible. Elected officials should shape public policy and be leaders in establishing incentives to attract business.

The strategic plan also says the “Economic development committee with representatives from the utilities and the Economic Development Corp. will propose an interim report to City Council by March 31, 2009.”

March 31 has come and gone. The city’s economic development department lost its strategic planning person to another department.   A city groping for new business should start by filling such an important vacancy.

Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at Lon.Matejczyk@csbj.com or 329-5202.