Colorado Chamber report finds praise for economy, concerns about legislature's impact

Business leaders value Colorado’s diverse and growing economy but are concerned about “an increasingly complex and cumbersome state legislative and regulatory landscape,” according to research by the Colorado Chamber of Commerce.

The organization collaborated with Dietrich Partners, a Colorado-based business consulting firm, to produce the, “Colorado Competitive Landscape Report, 2022 Sentiment and 2023 Outlook.” The 35-page report assesses the state’s business climate and provides insights on past or present policies and influences currently impacting businesses as they expand or contract.

Both public and private companies along the Front Range and the Western Slope were interviewed. Fourteen industries were represented in the survey and the number of employees in companies ranged from 60 to 3,000 people. Annual revenues ranged from $8 million to $1.5 billion.

“The findings in this study are critical for state leaders to understand: the cumulative impact of each new tax, fee and regulatory burden on employers has a real impact on our economic climate,” Loren Furman, president and chief executive officer of the Colorado Chamber, said in a statement announcing the publication. “With legislative session underway, we’re asking lawmakers to prioritize regulatory certainty and allow businesses to thrive.”

Dietrich Partners conducted multi-hour interviews with 31 C-level executives to understand what makes Colorado a destination for companies or why they might have recently left the state. Topics included workforce and talent, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the business climate, political and legislative issues, and the outlook and sentiment for 2023. Questions on business operations included supply chain issues, revenue and profit growth, real estate, capital investment, and environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

“In this survey, only the largest companies (1,000-plus employees) had designated committees that were actively implementing ESG policies and reports,” the research found. “Most respondents indicated that these policies were ‘baked into’ their companies. As examples, they cited efforts to minimize plastic in packaging, local sourcing of materials, minimizing travel, converting their fleets to electric vehicles, investing in solar power, and donating time and/or a percentage of sales to local environmental projects.”

The report noted increased wages and high cost-of-living expenses were concerns. It highlighted “unintended consequences of state legislative policy” and referred to wage transparency, family and medical leave insurance and retail delivery fees.

“The state’s low unemployment rate, worker burnout and shifting work-life values in the wake of the pandemic created a chasm between employer and employee expectations,” the report said. “Respondents specifically note financial compensation, health and company benefits, remote work and flexible schedules were all areas of focus. Many employers reported lower employee productivity, increased attrition and the phenomenon known as ‘quiet quitting,’ where an employee performs only the bare minimum job requirements.”

The report suggested the business community should continue to engage with lawmakers to ensure stability and regulatory certainty. Costs of new environmental and employment regulations were identified as a top concern.

“State economic and regulatory policy making will only become more important moving forward,” the report stated. “With significant polarization, inaction and gridlock at the federal level, major policy initiatives are increasingly happening at the state level through state legislatures.”

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