Colorado Springs economy recovering slowly

By Staff

The Colorado Springs economy is in recovery and in better shape than the U.S. as a whole, according to College of Business faculty who spoke at a recent forum of community leaders.

Tom Zwirlein, professor, and Fred Crowley, senior instructor, both from the College of Business, presented the state of the local economy as part of the 13th Annual Southern Colorado Economic Forum at the Antlers Hilton hotel.

"Stability came strictly for one reason: presence of the military," Crowley said. "The military is responsible for 100,000 jobs in a community where we have 330,000 people actually employed. That's an incredible impact on our community.

"One of every five dollars in this community is generated through the military."

Clearly, Colorado Springs is in recovery, Crowley said, pointing to multiple data sources including unemployment numbers that are more than 2 percentage points better than the national average.

"This is not going to be a rapid recovery," Crowley said, "but a recovery that we hope is without a double dip."

Still, not all the numbers presented were encouraging. In a recent survey, 36 percent of those who responded said they planned to spend less money this holiday season; 60 percent said they planned to spend the same as last year.

Crowley and Zwirlein both pointed to declining sales taxes revenue as a substantial problem for local government, which depends on such taxes to fund services. Growth of Internet sales; new retailers in Falcon, Monument and Fountain; and general consumer malaise have caused large drops in tax revenue for Colorado Springs. Sales and property taxes lost to suburban communities cost the city an estimated $32 million in revenue.

Zwirlein said concerns remain about the ability of the U.S. economy to recover. Topping his list are commercial loan defaults, mistrust of government and what he called the "one-legged stool" of municipal financing.

"Things are improving, but there are some blocks along the way where we could stub our toes," Zwirlein said.

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