Forum speakers speculate about economic recovery

Filed under: Banking & Finance,Daily News | Tags:

Pent-up consumer demand is one of the things that will help the national economy recover. The debt burden of households is the lowest it’s been in more than 13 years.

That’s the word from Gary Schlossberg, senior economist for Wells Capital Management, who was keynote speaker this morning at the 14th annual Southern Colorado Economic Forum.

About 600 business and community leaders attended the forum, at the Antlers Hotel in downtown Colorado Springs.

As consumers start buying again, and businesses start replacing worn-out equipment, Schlossberg said he “wouldn’t be surprised to see employment pick up rapidly.”

And, nationwide, exports – adjusted for inflation – are growing at 12 percent. He said that much of that was fueled by high-tech exports.

Locally,  the residential housing market has benefited recently from an increase in per capita income, along with affordable housing and the extension of the first-time home buyer’s credit for deployed military personnel. But the region needs to attract more manufacturing firms, said Tom Zwirlein, director of the forum.

“As I like to say, we don’t build enough stuff,” he said.

Fred Crowley, senior economist for the forum, told the audience that telecommunications and complex electronics manufacturing are two sectors that would bring the most economic benefit and jobs creation to the region.

And Tom Duening, El Pomar Chair of Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, said that start-ups and entrepreneurs are crucial to a region’s economic success. Using Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation data, he debunked the myth that most businesses fail within the first few years.

“Fifty percent of companies are still going after five years,” Duening said.

Not only that, but young companies are the ones providing steady employment growth.

“As firms get older, you get net job destruction,” he said.

The region also lacks a dominant cluster of industries.

“It can take 10 years to develop a cluster,” Duening said. “We have to have patience, but – first – deliberate action is required.”