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Why Colorado’s Economy Attracts Big-Name Companies

August 16, 2018 by Meredith Metsker

 

Colorado’s economy recently attracted yet another major company to the Denver area: major outdoor retailer VF Corp. VF Corp is the parent company of outdoor brands like The North Face, Smartwool, JanSport, and more.

Currently based in Greensboro, N.C., VF Corp is moving 85 of its executives to the new Denver headquarters beginning in the spring. Along with bringing new jobs to the state, VF Corp is also bringing in big wages—specifically, an average annual wage of $185,721. That’s more than three times the average annual wage in Denver.

Colorado’s successful attraction of VF Corp comes on the heels of the Centennial State also snagging the popular Outdoor Retailer show from Salt Lake City. Not to mention, plenty of other major outdoor retailers call Colorado home, including Big Agnes, Kelty, Otter Box, Pearl Izumi, Sea to Summit, etc. Denver also recently landed Slack’s second headquarters.

So what is it about Colorado (aside from the Rocky Mountains, its four national parks, 20+ ski resorts, etc.) that’s driving this success? What does Colorado’s economy look like right now?

Let’s look at Emsi’s Economy Overview, housed inside Emsi Developer. This nifty tool organizes labor market data about any specific region into one easily-digestible report.

PopulationPopulation of Colorado's population with the most people located in the Denver metro.

Many Western states have seen massive population growth lately (Idaho, anyone?), and Colorado is no exception. In the last five years, Colorado’s population has grown by 429,000 people (8%) and is projected to increase by another 322,000 (5.7%) in the next five years. Unsurprisingly, the majority reside in the Denver area.

Of the 5.6 million people that live in Colorado, 1.23 million of them are millennials, which is a little higher than the national average. These days, a lot of companies look at the millennial (and even Gen Z) populations when considering where to locate.

Here are a few other graphics with fun facts about Colorado’s population:

Workforce graphics showing 743,524 Colorado workers will be retiring soon, 1.74 million workers are racially diverse, and 383,699 are veterans.Jobs and Income

From 2012 to 2017, jobs increased by 14% in Colorado, outpacing the national growth rate of 8%. Jobs are projected to grow by 301,400 jobs in the next five years.

Speaking of outpacing the nation, Colorado’s median household income of $62,500 also one-ups the national average by $7,200 ($55,300). But to be fair, Colorado’s overall cost of living is also higher than the U.S. average.

Education

When it comes to education, Colorado is also sitting pretty with 24% of its residents having bachelor’s degrees (5.7% above the U.S. average). And 8% hold associate’s degrees, which is just slightly higher than the national average.

Chart showing Colorado education attainment. 4.6% of people have less than 9th grade education, 5.3% have 9th to 12th grade education, 22.2% have high school diplomas, 22% have some college, 8.1% have associate's degrees, 24% have bachelor's degrees, and 13.9% have graduate degrees or higher.

Place of Work vs. Place of Residence (aka Commuting!)

Something VF Corp likely looked at before selecting the Denver area was where the workforce lives and where it works. Are people living in “bedroom communities” and commuting into downtown Denver? Or do they actually live in Denver?

In the graphic below, we can see the commuting patterns for the Denver metro area based on ZIP code. Clearly, more workers are commuting into Denver and living elsewhere. In fact, the No. 1 ranked ZIP for employment (80202, Denver) ranks No. 70 for resident workers. The top ZIP for resident workers is 80013 (Aurora). 

Heat map showing where workers live and where they work.

Largest Industries

We know that jobs in Colorado have increased and are projected to continue increasing. But what industries are dominating the scene? Retail trade comes in at No. 3, which certainly includes the outdoor recreation companies we mentioned earlier.

Bar chart showing the largest industries in Colorado's economy, with the largest being government, followed by health care and social assistance.

Top Companies Posting Jobs

Given Colorado’s rapid growth in jobs and population, let’s look at which companies are posting the most jobs right now. Tech company Oracle is in the top spot, followed by family-owned trucking company C.R. England. It’s interesting that CRST International, another trucking company, is also in the top 10.

And of course, we see Vail Resorts, which operates ski resorts in Colorado, Lake Tahoe, Utah, Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Australia, and Canada.

For companies looking to relocate or economic developers looking to attract businesses, it’s important to see what competitors are already thriving in the area. A lot of our clients use our data for these purposes.

List of the top companies posting jobs in Colorado, with the top company being Oracle Corporation.

Largest Occupations

We’ve looked at the top companies searching for talent, so now let’s look at where Coloradoans are currently working. The handy table below shows the top occupations in Colorado and how they compare to the national average. Notice the higher-than-average concentration of sales and business/financial occupations.

We pull this data from government sources, primarily Occupation Employment Statistics.

Bar chart of the largest occupations in Colorado's economy, with the top occupation being Office and Administrative Support, followed by Sales and Related.

Conclusion

Multiple studies have declared Colorado’s economy as one of the best in the U.S. Plus, it’s one of the top contenders for Amazon’s HQ2. With a healthy millennial population, attractive outdoor recreation scene, and strong economy, it seems Colorado is a state to keep an eye on in the next five or so years.

Whether it’s tech companies or outdoorsy ones, economic developers can use our Economy Overview report (or any of our data, for that matter) to tell a community’s story. When a company’s bottom line or a community’s growth is at stake, it’s crucial to start with data.

Request a free Economy Overview of your region here.

 

For more information about these metrics, our Economy Overview report, or our data in general, please contact Cara Christopher.

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