Toward a More Competitive Colorado report released
Annual benchmark study examines competitive factors related to economic growth
TMCC CoverThe Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation (Metro Denver EDC) released on Nov. 18, 2013, the ninth edition of Toward a More Competitive Colorado (TMCC), an annual benchmark report of Colorado’s strengths, challenges, and opportunities for future job growth and economic expansion.
First published in 2005, TMCC is the foremost effort to compare Colorado’s competitive position against the other 49 states. The study is researched and developed by the Metro Denver EDC’s Chief Economist, Patty Silverstein of Development Research Partners, and is presented in cooperation with Wells Fargo.
“The good news again is that Colorado continues to rank among the most economically competitive states in the United States in key measures such as job growth, innovation, and technology concentration,” said Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver EDC.
Clark pointed to Colorado’s overall ascent in adding new jobs—ranking fifth highest in the United States for employment growth, a drastic change from its 49th place rank in 2002. In addition, Colorado has regained the No. 2 spot behind Massachusetts for the percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher, making the state highly competitive for attracting companies.
But on a cautionary note, Clark further explained that while Colorado is performing well in attracting jobs and investment to the state, one of its neighboring states and primary economic development competitors—Utah—is surpassing Colorado in areas such as R&D expenditures, high-school dropout rates, and job growth.
“Colorado would be well-served to examine its once economically weak neighbor because Utah is gaining significant ground on our state,” said Clark.
And despite low sales and income tax rates, Colorado’s tax structure remains cumbersome and is potentially making the state less competitive, according to Silverstein.
“A continuing issue for Colorado is its tax structure, and little progress is apparent in making the tax structure more aligned with promoting economic growth,” explained Silverstein.
Notably, Colorado has the lowest state sales tax rate (of states that levy a sales tax); but when local tax burdens are included, the state ranks as having the seventh-highest state and local sales tax burden.
Silverstein highlighted that as a result of continued tax structure challenges, Colorado’s rank in the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index has fallen from 10th in 2007 to 19th in 2013.
Another competitive advantage for Colorado is the health of its residents. Colorado dominates the nation with the lowest obesity rate and the highest level of physical fitness, in addition to taking the No. 2 spot for overall happiness and wellbeing.
TMCC also draws attention to the state’s challenges when it comes to maintaining our highways. According to the benchmark data, Colorado ranked 19th best in 2000 in an analysis of highway performance among the states. Today, Colorado is 10th worst.
“By 2050, Colorado’s Front Range population will surpass five million people—the population of the entire state today,” said Clark. “If new roads and rail are not built, the result will be clogged highways and a distressed environment for our state.”
The ninth edition of TMCC also analyzes Colorado’s place as a global competitor, with new international rankings for available data points.