Quality of Life Indicators report paints grim picture

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The Pikes Peak United Way released its fourth annual Quality of Life indicators report today, a 124-page study that offers a snapshot the health of the community.

The overall picture is not pretty.

In a nutshell, the region’s job growth is not keeping up with the population, wages have dropped, childhood poverty is growing and young professionals are leaving the community.

The report is a factual assessment of the region’s progress in areas as diverse as the economy, social well-being, arts and culture, and public safety.

The exodus of young professionals is particularly concerning to economic developers, who rely on a talented youthful workforce to attract companies.

“We’re below the critical 30 percent level that corporate relocation advisors look for,” said Lisa Bachman of Bachman Public relations, who presented some of the report’s findings. “”The drop means that young professionals are exiting the community, and looking for jobs elsewhere.”

While characterizing the report as “a reflection of the tough economic times being experienced nationwide,” its authors also noted that the “report also reinforces why the Pike peak Region is such an attractive place to live, work, and play.”

Indicators noted in the report include:

  • Although the community has grown by 90,000 people during the last 10 years, only 14,000 net jobs have been created.
  • Since 2001, real salaries and wages paid in El Paso County have dropped by ten percent.
  • Young professionals 25-44 constitute 29 percent of the workforce, down by two percentage points from the previous year
  • Although Colorado Springs has a major crime rate that is almost 20 percent lower than the national average, El Paso County residents use methamphetamine at a rate that is 40 to 50 percent higher than other large counties in Colorado.
  • The number of children living in poverty increased has steadily increased over the last five years.
  • During 2009, El Paso County received the most child abuse and neglect referrals of any Colorado county, a number that has been trending upward for the last several years.
On a brighter note, the report also said:
  • Gross metropolitan product per capita, at $32,665, was 10th among “benchmark cities,’ above only El Paso, Texas and Pueblo.
  • There are more than 200 arts and cultural organizations in the Pikes Peak region.
  • In the Milken Institute’s national ranking of “best performing cities,” based on economic performance, job creation, and high technology components of the local economy, Colorado Springs ranks 101st of 200 cities, and far below every benchmark city except Pueblo.
  • The region’s economy was sustained by the steady growth in military presence since 2005, primarily because of the growth of Fort. Carson.

But even this good news came with a caveat.

The report’s authors ‘red-flagged” several areas, noting that “A local economy dependent on government and military employment is exposed to the uncertainties of tax revenues and politics.”

The entire report may be viewed at http://pikespeakqualityoflife.org