Region 10 recently hosted the Grow Our Economy summit. This event addressed economic development trends in Delta, Gunnison, Montrose, Ouray, Hinsdale, and San Miguel counties. During the summit, Elizabeth Garner from the State Demography Office presented some very interesting information related to age, migration, job growth, commuting, and population projections.


Elizabeth Garner, State Demographer, Department of Local Affairs

Some of the key takeaways included:

Delta and Montrose are shrinking, while San Miguel and Ouray are expanding: Between 2010 and 2013, Delta and Montrose Counties experienced the largest decreases in population in the region – mostly due to outmigration for employment opportunities. During the same time period, Ouray and San Miguel Counties experienced the largest increase in population. It’s hard to pinpoint where people are going or where they are coming from, but it is a safe assumption that people “vote with their feet” when it comes to economic development — meaning migration follows jobs. See the chart below.

Young people leave for college, and don’t return for nearly two decades: When it comes to young people, Delta and Montrose are similar in the distribution of age. These counties see a steady growth in volume until the age of 18. Then, the volume of people ages 19-34 drops significantly. The bulk of population distribution peaks at age 59 for these counties.This wide chasm in age grouping represents a very apparent deficiency in our workforce, and highlights missed opportunities for these counties. Meanwhile, the inverse is true in Ouray, San Miguel, Gunnison, and Hinsdale: ages 20-45 make up one of the most abundant demographics.

Region 10, as a whole, is not attracting young people: Net migration is the totaling of people moving to and moving from a given territory. In comparison to the rest of Colorado, Region 10 counties have a significant deficiency in net migration between the ages 18-36. As mentioned before, this particular demographic represents a significant cross section of the state’s labor force pool. With a rapidly aging demographic in our region, it will be key to figure out avenues that enfranchise younger generations – especially if they are needed to provide support and services for older generations.

Proprietary job share: Proprietary jobs – or self-employment – play a large role in Region 10’s economy. Proprietary jobs usually make up less than 20% of most counties’ jobs. Not so much in Region 10. Delta, Montrose, San Miguel, and Gunnison fall into the 20-30% range. Ouray and Hinsdale exceed 30%.  The primary takeaway from this fact stresses the importance of supporting small businesses in the region. “Ma and Pa” storefronts are a prominent economic unit in our communities, and our growth hinges on how well we support small businesses in our backyard.

Recession recovery: Some economies have fully recovered from the 2008 market crash. Unfortunately, Region 10 isn’t one of those economies.  Prior to the downturn, peak employment stood at 56,597 jobs in the region. Current employment is 51,310 jobs – roughly 90% of the 2008 job count. The drop in jobs was huge (roughly 9% between 2008 and 2010), and the recovery has been stagnant at best (less than 1% growth between 2010 and 2013). With the exception of Southeastern Colorado, our region is one of the only parts of Colorado that hasn’t returned to or surpassed employment rates of 2008.

migration and jobs

People vote with their feet: There is a distinct correlation between migration of people and jobs being created. Click image to enhance.

Job shares: One of the largest employers for the region was the public sector. With job share percentages ranging between 12 and 21 percent in each county, government represented one of the largest employers for the region. The next biggest employers included: agriculture, food/accommodations, construction, and retail. Health services represented 10 percent of both Delta and Montrose jobs. Art (10%) and real estate (9%) were large in San Miguel.

Growth in jobs by sectors: Between 2010 and 2013, employment sectors that saw the largest increases in jobs for Region 10 were agriculture, food/accommodations, and oil/gas mining. The sectors that saw largest decreases were construction, government, and retail.

A wealth of information was presented during this session, and this post only scratches the surface of it. Feel free to download the presentation by following the link below. If you have any questions about the information, you can also visit the State Demography Office’s website.

Download the presentation here.

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