A local economist on Thursday urged Colorado Springs' leaders to find ways to encourage the return of the manufacturing industry in an effort to increase job growth and stabilize the city's economic future.
While the city's economy is improving, it is doing so at a slower pace than the rest of the nation, said Fred Crowley, senior economist for the Southern Colorado Economic Forum.
"We need to change our economic base," he said.
Crowley was one of two featured speakers at Wednesday's 20th annual Vectra Bank Economic Forecast Breakfast held at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort. The other was George Feiger, president of San Francisco-based Contango Capital Advisors, who spoke on the U.S. and European economies.
Crowley said Colorado Springs lost 55 percent of its manufacturing jobs during the Great Recession. That loss was compounded by the closing of businesses such as supply companies and hair salons that support manufactures and their workers, Crowley said.
El Paso County has lost about 2,000 businesses since its peak in 2005, Crowley said. Home and auto sales have increased in the past year, Crowley said, and those increases show a stabilizing economy. But such sales don't contribute to the economy in the way that manufacturing does, he said.
"Those things that are growing, such as cars and housing, export our wealth, as we do not create the steel and woods to make those things."
Both Crowley and Feiger agreed the U.S. economy is improving. But Feiger warned that troubles in the European Union could stall near-term U.S. economic growth if those European economies backslide. Tightening monetary policy in Europe by reducing government spending and raising taxes threatens to intensify economic woes in countries like Greece and Spain, he said.
"If you have an economy in recession, and you raise taxes and stop productivity," Feiger said, "then it gets worse because less people are working and there are more people on the dole."
Looking locally, Feiger said the most "phenomenal" economic event to occur in the U.S. for decades is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, by the oil and gas industry. Fracking uses water, chemicals and sand to blast fissures into solid rock formations to retrieve petroleum products. Feiger said refinements to fracking are creating an economic boom that will empower the U.S. economically for decades.
"It will be a major factor in the economy for the next 20 years," he said.
A new wave of oil and gas oil has come to El Paso County in the past year, with fracking done at a couple of sites. The Colorado Springs City Council is yet to act on proposed regulations governing drilling within the city.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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