The numbers are in for the first half of 2017 — and they’re impressive not only individually, but also collectively. As the cover story in this very issue reports, that bodes well for businesses in Mesa County.
There were year-over-year increases in sales, use and lodging tax collections, a measure of what consumers, businesses and travelers spend. More remarkable still were double-digit proportional gains in real estate transactions and the collective dollar volume of those deals, a pleasant surprise that affirms reports of a robust market. And what about an eye-popping 44 percent increase in the single-family building permits issued in Mesa County during the first half of 2017 compared to the first half of 2016?
Labor estimates rank among the most closely watched economic indicators, and for good reason. Unless people have jobs and earn wages, it’s difficult for them to purchase goods and services from businesses. Once again, the news is mostly good. While the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate spiked again in Mesa County in June, the increase was smaller than in past years. Moreover, monthly jobless rates have remained below 4 percent in Mesa County for four straight months now and are expected to trend even lower.
We rounded up the usual suspects — that is, business leaders who keep close tabs on the local economy — to comment on the first-half indicators as well as share their observations about the actual conditions they’ve encountered. Two words kept coming up during telephone interviews: busy and positive. Seldom was heard a discouraging word.
With the exception of traditional retailers coping with the national trend toward increasing online sales, most sectors of the economy have experienced growth. That includes construction, obviously, but also health care and manufacturing. There’s even been an uptick in energy activity.
Moreover, there’s a growing recognition among business owners and managers that conditions have improved, in turn giving them more confidence to expand operations and hire more employees. That’s encouraging news as well because nothing breeds success quite like success.
So if the first half of 2017 was so busy and positive, what’s the prospect for the second half and beyond? Most likely more of the same, according to the business leaders with which we talked.
The only fly in the economic ointment could be a tightening labor market that makes it more difficult for businesses to find qualified applicants to fill job openings. But labor demand and the availability of jobs offers yet another reason for people to move to the Grand Valley — or come back.
Of course, there’s always the potential for an unforeseen reversal of fortune, triggered perhaps by some event with national or even global ramifications.
But for now, expectations are great. And that’s a gratifying change from the more guarded outlook that’s justifiably endured in the aftermath of a stubbornly slow recovery from recession.
Let’s enjoy the impressive numbers for the first half of 2017 and take advantage of the circumstances as the second half of 2017 proceeds.