Manufacturing Robust in Fort Collins-Loveland Area

There’s a story in this morning’s BizWest News Morning Report titled “Manufacturing leaders launch national tour from Northern Colorado, Boulder Valley.” It’s about the National Association of Manufacturers kicking off a two-week, 25-city national tour here in Colorado.

That includes a stop this afternoon at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Fort Collins where I’ve been asked to share a few thoughts on the ‘state of manufacturing’ in our area. Following are my remarks:

“Overall the state of manufacturing in the Fort Collins-Loveland MSA is good. That’s reflected in both the stats and how the local manufacturing community has organized itself.

Forgive me for what’s about to follow, but the best way to illustrate how manufacturing here is doing is with some numbers. A hat tip to Amanda Repella, Data Program Lead for Larimer County, who pulled together the last data for me.

  • 75% of jobs in the county are in manufacturing compared to only 5.5% of jobs in Colorado
  • Manufacturing ranks 4th behind education, health care and retail in employment
  • There are 14,016 manufacturing jobs in Larimer County, 1% above the national average. These are just the Production Occupations exclusive of C-suite and administrative support jobs. Add those in and the number is even bigger.
  • The number of manufacturing jobs here is growing: over the 2013-2018 period, manufacturing employment grew by 19% and employee earnings grew by 18%. In contrast, Colorado jobs grew by 10% and wages by 11%.
  • Median income for people working in manufacturing in the Fort Collins-Loveland MSA is $56,813 making it the 3rd highest median income sector.
    • A key point here for students and their parents: you can make a nice living working in manufacturing.
  • Manufacturing exports from Larimer County total $1.03 billion annually.
  • Manufacturing contributes 15.3% of the county’s Gross Regional Product: $2.8 Billion of the total GRP of $18.3 Billion.

In addition to the good stats, manufacturers here are organized. The Northern Colorado Manufacturing Sector Partnership is a great representative for manufacturers.

In conclusion, it’s great to be us!”

I was also asked about greatest challenges facing the Fort Collins business community. While being bullish on the community, there are some things to work on or pay attention to, including:

  • Complacency and arrogance. When things are going well it’s easy to stop making smart economic decisions. Two examples where that might be happening are housing affordability and electricity reliability and rates. Local government policies are restraining the supply of both which means costs go up.
  • Talent and worker affordability is not a unique problem for us, but it is a problem.
  • Interstate congestion is an issue, especially as it impacts travel times to Denver International Airport.
  • What happens someday to the federal offices here and federally-funded research programs when national debt becomes unsustainable?
  • The basic model for higher education is ripe for disruption. What would that mean to a university town? It might be bad, it might be good.
  • Specific to Fort Collins, more regulations and more fees make us less competitive economically.
  • Finally, unforeseen changes in consumer markets could dramatically impact some local companies.