Upward trend projected for Mesa County economy

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) -- A leading business researcher on Monday presented the annual economic outlook for Mesa County at the workforce center.

Richard Wobbekind, an associate dean for the Colorado University Lead’s School of Business, said that things are looking up in Mesa County, despite its struggling economy.

The unemployment rate dropped from 4.6 percent in October 2015 to 4.5 percent in October 2016 in Mesa County. This number remains higher than the states unemployment rate at 3.1 percent.

After the crash of oil and gas, the energy industry saw a 44 percent decrease in energy jobs.

During the crash, other industries on the Western Slope have emerged.

"When you have an industry that goes down, you are forced you’re forced to think about the larger picture,” said Wobbekind. “We are seeing more diversity in the economy, kind of offsetting some of that job loss that we saw in the oil and gas industry.”

Wobbekind said heath care, aviation and outdoor services are the industries that are seeing growth in Mesa County.

In the last year, aviation added just under 430 jobs, outdoor services added about 1,400 jobs and health care added nearly 9,600 jobs.

Some of the companies that have been growing include Mobility Driven, a company that allows people with disabilities to get transportation as well as Junction West RV Park.

Those business owners were recognized at the luncheon for their contribution to economic growth and job creation.

Robert Dittmer, owner of Mobility Driven, said his company started in a small garage in October of 2014 and has now moved into a 4,000-square-foot facility.

“It's exciting to see that people want to grow the Western slope," he said. "When you think about the Front Range, we are going to become a bigger part of that growth, so that's exciting."

Other industries booming in Mesa County include education, technology and tourism.

Colorado Mesa university ranks in the top ten largest employers in the region, with an estimated 1,996 full and part-time staff in 2014.

Technology is projected to increase 2.4 percent in 2017.

The local tourism industry saw a 29.1 percent increase in visitation in 2015.

The real estate market also shows a jump in the numbers with a 22.8 percent increase in transactions, and a 17.9 percent increase in total dollars spent.

Retail sales in Mesa County reportedly decreased slightly in 2016. Mesa County sales tax revenues decreased from $24.2 million from September 2015 to $23.1 million in September 2016.

Overall, the Colorado Economic Business outlook for 2017 is continuing to trend positive, officials said.



 
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