Tracking or contributing, CMU economic news good

Colorado Mesa University not only tracks regional indicators of economic performance, but also contributes substantially itself to the Western Colorado economy. The news on both counts is encouraging.

Stories in this issue of the Business Times report on an economic forecast forum conducted at CMU in Grand Junction as well as the latest results of a study estimating the economic effects of the university.

Nathan Perry, an economics professor at CMU, led a presentation at the forum, covering where the economy has been, where it’s at and where it’s going. While the growth that’s occurred over the past two years could slow, Perry expects growth to continue. And while the energy and construction industry remain volatile, they’ll likely play leading roles in that trend.

Perry offered some valuable insights. While Mesa County was slow to recover after what he called the double bubbles of energy and real estate development burst, the local economy has fared much better over the last two years. Gross domestic product, the measure of goods and services produced in an area, grew 4.2 percent in  Mesa County in 2017 and probably grew between
3 percent and 4 percent in 2018.

The health care sector has helped to sustain employment in Mesa County with the addition of more than 2,300 jobs between 2008 and 2018, Perry says.

Over the past two years, though, it’s been job and wage growth in the energy and construction sectors that’s played an important role in pushing trends upward. The two sectors accounted for a total of $110 million in wages during the second quarter of 2018. The almost $20 million increase in wages in the energy sector between the second quarters of 2018 and 2018 was nearly double the next largest gain.

Of course, what everybody most wants to know is what’s likely to happen in 2019 and beyond. Are the contributions of the energy and construction sectors sustainable? Perry believes they are, even though natural gas prices probably will remain low and construction tends to follow that could be the top of the business cycle.

One way or another, there’s no double bubble waiting to pop.

The was more encouraging news from CMU in the latest results of a study estimating the economic effects of the university in Western Colorado.

The grand total for the 2017-2018 fiscal year came to $468.7 million. That figure takes into account direct spending by CMU, its employees and students as well as money brought in by visitors attending various events at the university. A multiplier of 1.8 is then applied to calculate the effects of that spending as the money moves through the economy.

At $128.1 million, student expenditures were once again the largest single category of spending. University expenditures totaled $34.3 million, while another $29.9 million was spent on employee salaries and $22.1 million on capital projects. In addition, $45.9 million was attributed to visitors.

The chief benefit of CMU is the educational opportunities the university affords its students, including those who come from Western Colorado and those who come from elsewhere. The role the university plays in preparing students for careers, developing the work force and ultimately changing lives is priceless.

But isn’t nice that in the process, CMU contributes in so many other ways to the regional economy?

Talking about having your cake and eating it, too.