Report measures economic impact of Colorado’s outdoors
Opportunities to experience outdoor recreation, open space, parks and wilderness are what bring many people to Colorado. In addition to adding to our quality of life, these attractions also help drive our economy, according to a study released last week.
A report from Headwaters Economics showed that federally protected lands such as national parks, wilderness areas and national monuments are critical to Colorado's economic growth. Non-metro counties in the west, including in Colorado, with more that 30 percent federally protected lands increased jobs by 345 percent between 1970 and 2010. Non-metro counties with no protected federal lands increased employment by 83 percent over the same period.
These protected lands attract more than just tourists, said Dr. Ray Rasker, Headwaters' executive director. "They also include higher-paying service sectors as well, such as engineers, accountants or software developers."
Headwaters Economics, located in Bozeman, Mont., conducts studies of western states' economies. Its recent study showed that Colorado is a top-ranked state for entrepreneurship, creating 450 new businesses per month for every 100,000 adults in 2010, compared to the national average of 340.
Several business folks who commented on the study pointed out how important qualify-of-life factors are to their ability to recruit workers. Ryan Martens, founder and chief technology officer at Rally Software in Boulder, said that access to areas where people can play, recreate and regenerate is critical to his company's success. He recruits a number of engineers from the Midwest, and the Colorado lifestyle is a strong selling point.
David White, executive vice president of the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp., cited the outdoor lifestyle as a key tool he uses when recruiting companies to relocate here. His prime target area is California, and most of the businesses owners he recruited here came for personal reasons, with quality of life being at the top of the list.
While protected lands attract people to Colorado and are a key economic driver, several business and economic development leaders pointed out the need for additional actions to promote economic growth, particularly in rural areas. Specifically, they pointed out that the lack of broadband Internet access is constraining growth in rural areas of the state.
"Entrepreneurship is being held back by a lack of connectivity," said Al White, director of Colorado's Tourism Office and a former state senator.
"Simple internet connectivity is extremely important for rural businesses," said John Land Le Coq, co-founder of fly-fishing equipment maker Fishpond. Lack of sufficient Internet capacity has made it difficult to attract people to work at his company's design center in Dillon.
On that front, Gov. John Hickenlooper's Office of Information Technology is engaged in a process to help local communities come together to identify problem areas and develop local solutions to address the need for better broadband connectivity.
Article posted on June 5, 2012