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BASALT, Colorado – The Colorado Chamber of Commerce today hosted the “State of the State” business briefing in partnership with the Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, Colorado River Valley and Glenwood Springs Chambers of Commerce. Colorado Chamber President and CEO Loren Furman discussed the 2022 legislative session and the state’s business climate.
“Our partnership with local chambers is critical. When we come together as one voice, it is incredibly powerful when we’re speaking with legislative leaders,” Furman said. “That’s why this partnership is so important.”
The business briefing is part of the Colorado Chamber’s initiative to engage with businesses statewide. The event offered members of the Mountain Chamber Alliance in the Roaring Fork Valley a platform to discuss how recent state policies impact businesses in the region. Local chamber leaders and employers also strategized on how to engage with legislators in the state capitol on issues unique to the mountain community.
“Over the last couple of years, it has been incredibly tough for businesses,” Furman said. “Not just with the effects of the pandemic, the job losses, the closures – but we saw a lot of policy decisions that were made that created a lot of mandates on businesses, increased costs and fees, and regulatory changes at the administrative level. Compounding that with some of the challenges businesses are having now – inflation, increased gas prices, workforce challenges – all of that is coming together and really impacting the companies we represent.”
Furman covered some of the major legislative proposals this session that affect the business community statewide, including unemployment insurance relief and environmental legislation. She also covered several bills that failed this session but can be expected to return in future sessions, like proposals on workplace harassment and employee marijuana use.
She wrapped up by giving her thoughts and predictions on the political environment in Colorado and how businesses in the Roaring Fork Valley can make an impact electorally. The Colorado Chamber recently made endorsements in primary elections for the first time, hoping to intervene early to support pro-business candidates from both parties.
“We believe as an organization that we need to see more balance in this state,” Furman said.
Jessica Valand, director of workforce development at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, also joined the briefing to give an update on workforce trends at the local, state, and national levels. Labor shortages continue to impact employers across Colorado, and Valand provided insight into what is driving the current employment challenges.
“What we’re experiencing at the moment is not actually a direct result of the pandemic,” Valand said. “We hear a lot of speculation about what’s going on with workforce issues, but the data doesn’t actually bear that out. What a lot of economists are talking about right now is a ‘sansdemic,’ which means that there aren’t enough people out there to do the work that needs to be done.”
Valand pointed to several factors influencing labor market trends, from the baby boomer generation getting older and retiring to the slowing U.S. birth rate. Other issues, like the increase in part-time worker and decline in visa workers, also are having a marginal impact.
Locally, Valand said that while it may not feel like it, the Roaring Fork Valley is back to the status quo in terms of employment.
“We run a talent deficit here, and that is not new,” she said. “This problem isn’t going to go away; it’s only going to get worse.”
For businesses looking to attract workers in this tight labor market, Valand recommends that businesses focus on communication, job quality, and workplace culture.
The Colorado Chamber of Commerce champions free enterprise, a healthy business environment and economic prosperity for all Coloradans. It is the only business association that works to improve the business climate for all sizes of business from a statewide, multi-industry perspective. What the Colorado Chamber accomplishes is good for all businesses, and that’s good for the state’s economy. It was created in 1965 based on the merger with the Colorado Manufacturers’ Association.