ARCHIVED  October 1, 1995

Economy enjoys steady growth

Northern Colorado’s economy continues along at a steady clip.

Although not posting the stellar growth of 1994, the economy continues to record strong numbers, with low unemployment and a booming commercial building market.

Major employers such as Greeley’s Sykes Enterprises International and Starpak Inc., Advanced Energy Industries Inc. in Fort Collins and Colorado Memory Systems in Loveland are boosting local employment, and office and retail construction projects are popping up everywhere.

“It’s a strong growth economy,´ said Nancy McCallin, chief economist for the Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly. Breaking the region’s economy down by city, McCallin said Fort Collins “has been growing very, very strongly, and I don’t necessarily see anything that’s going to slow it down significantly.”

Greeley, she said, benefits from having one of the most diverse economies in the state, with agriculture, energy, manufacturing and the University of Northern Colorado adding stability.

Ann Garrison, associate professor of economics at UNC, said 1995 would be good for Northern Colorado but not as robust as last year.

The two counties’ population is projected to reach 524,015 by the year 2020, an increase of 48.9 percent from the 1995 estimate of 362,231. The estimated 1995 population reflects an increase of 5,774 from July 1994.

Some numbers remain virtually unchanged from a year ago. Unemployment in July stood at a mere 4.4 percent in Larimer County and 5.1 percent in Weld County. In July 1994, the numbers stood at 4.4 percent in Larimer and 5 percent in Weld. The figures are seasonally adjusted.

Meanwhile, wholesale sales soared in both counties through June, jumping 22 percent in Larimer County to $307.6 million, from $252.2 million for the same period a year ago, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. In Weld County, wholesale sales reached $328.9 million, up 9.9 percent from the $299.3 million posted through June 1994.

Retail sales, which almost always climb in the wake of increased population, did so in Larimer County, jumping 8.5 percent to $1.57 billion from $1.45 billion through June 1994, according to the Revenue Department. Weld County, however, apparently felt the effects of the Rocky Mountain Factory Stores outlet mall at Interstate 25 and U.S. Highway 34. Retail sales in Weld County fell 2.2 percent, to $959.4 million from $980.8 million a year ago.

Weld County construction decreased 10 percent, through May, dropping to $79.6 million from $88.4 million for the same period a year ago. Both residential and commercial construction are down in Weld County.

Larimer County recorded an 8.1 percent decrease in total construction, to $160.2 million from $174.4 million through May 1994.

The big story in Larimer County construction, however, is commercial construction, which soared 34.3 percent through May, to $56 million from $41.7 million a year ago. Residential construction dropped 19.7 percent in Larimer.

Other sectors remain strong. Kathy Egan, owner/operations manager with Express Personnel Services in Greeley, said continued demand for workers has kept her business busy.

“My business, personally, has grown leaps and bounds – almost too fast,” Egan said. “We see an almost unlimited demand for workers.”

Express Personnel Services’ employment level has increased from 75 to 100 two years ago to 300 to 400 today, Egan said. And, she said, she’s short of workers.

“Do you work on the weekends?” she quipped. “What would you like to do tomorrow?”

Although Weld County economic-development officials are attempting to lure more high-tech companies to the area. Egan said her business continues to be focused on providing temporary workers for the food-processing and agribusiness industry.

“We aren’t a high-tech market here,” she said.

The region’s high-tech companies are sending mixed signals. Hewlett-Packard Co. announced plans to relocate a scanner-production division from Greeley to Singapore, eliminating 170 regular and 200 temporary jobs, while other high-tech firms are quieting adding hundreds of jobs.

And Fort Collins business leaders worry that Symbios Logic Inc. will move its 950 jobs out of the region entirely in the wake of the city’s loss of a $1.3 billion computer-chip manufacturing plant for Hyundai Electronics America, Symbios’ parent.

Bob Vinton, chief operating officer for Fort Collins-based Comlinear Corp., expressed optimism for the region’s high-tech companies.

“The electronics industry in general is doing very well right now,” Vinton said. “It’s almost a period of unparalleled growth. The demand for high-performance computers is very strong.”

Comlinear, which employs 140, became a wholly owned subsidiary of National Semiconductor Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., in January.

Despite continued growth in manufacturing and high technology, and extensive development of agricultural land, agriculture continues to be a major player in the Northern Colorado economy. The farm sector accounted for 13.4 percent of Weld County’s wage and salary income in 1992, the most recent data available, according to the Legislative Council.

“Agriculture is always going to be a prevalent industry up there,” McCallin said.

UNC’s Garrison said that although the absolute value of agricultural products is increasing, a more diverse economy means that its share of the local economy is going down.

“We are going to become less reliant on agricultural processing, but it’s still going to be a very important industry,” Garrison said.

Oil and gas drilling has fallen in Weld County, with Snyder Oil Co. of Fort Worth, Texas, expecting to drill only 69 wells in the Wattenberg field this year, down from 370 last year.

Falling natural-gas prices account for the decline, said Diana Ten Eyck, Snyder vice president. Prices fell due to a mild winter across the nation, Ten Eyck said.

“With any normal winter, we could see some return of natural-gas prices to historic average gas prices,” she said.

Northern Colorado’s economy continues along at a steady clip.

Although not posting the stellar growth of 1994, the economy continues to record strong numbers, with low unemployment and a booming commercial building market.

Major employers such as Greeley’s Sykes Enterprises International and Starpak Inc., Advanced Energy Industries Inc. in Fort Collins and Colorado Memory Systems in Loveland are boosting local employment, and office and retail construction projects are popping up everywhere.

“It’s a strong growth economy,´ said Nancy McCallin, chief economist for the Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly. Breaking the region’s economy down by city, McCallin said Fort Collins “has been…

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