Positive sign for local business

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We’re always on the lookout for fresh statistics or indicators to give us an idea of how the Colorado Springs area’s economy is doing.

Granted, for some observers it can be as simple as keeping up with the city sales and use tax numbers, on the rise for many months. When we see those tax revenues rising as much as 8 percent a month over the same time a year ago, we can’t help but be encouraged. Same with new vehicle registrations and real-estate market activity.

But in the constant search for something new and different, we have found a revealing category buried deep on the city’s website.

It’s the monthly report from the city finance department listing the sales and use tax collection licenses issued to new companies doing business in Colorado Springs. The numbers run a couple months behind, but there’s plenty to crunch.

In March 2013, the city issued 124 new licenses, with 153 new businesses in February and 188 in January (always a busy month, with more fledgling ventures opening their doors to begin each new year).

Add those up, and you get 465 first-time licenses inside Colorado Springs for the first quarter. Given all the concern and uncertainty during those months about sequestration and how much the federal budget cuts might impact us locally — starting with the military and defense contractors — that’s encouraging.

How does it compare with recent years? The new licenses did decrease slightly from the first quarter of 2012, which added up to 503 (210 in January, 133 in February, 160 in March). But the total to begin this year topped that of 2011, when the first quarter had 434 new licenses.

We thought it might be instructive to compare us, apples to apples, with another Front Range city. The choice was Fort Collins, with a metro market combined with Loveland of more than 300,000 people. As much as we’ve heard about unprecedented economic growth there, we thought it was worth checking.

Here’s the answer: For those same three months to start 2013, Fort Collins registered a total of 264 new sales and use tax licenses. Loveland would add about 75-100 more. That’s healthy, for certain, but still not as many as in Colorado Springs.

What kinds of new businesses are popping up in our midst? Several are related to jewelry, some to the restaurant business, not to mention coffee shops and mobile food trucks. Many more deal with various kinds of services, from car and computer repair to building needs.

Noticeably, the new Colorado Springs listings have been dominated by small, local-owned businesses, startups trying to make it in what many see as an improving economy.

We’ll watch that list in months ahead, though you can find it yourself at www.springsgov.com/Page.aspx?NavID=453. You’ll need Microsoft Excel to read the reports, and you also should know that the listings only can be accessed one month at a time, making comparisons tedious.

Digging into them might not unearth a monumental discovery, but it’s still informative. Our search found, month after month, a plethora of new small businesses at the grassroots level.

Some will make it, and obviously others won’t. But they’re still trying, even in these times when the economic signals are so hard to decipher. And that’s a good sign.