Weld County tops the nation in employment gains for 2013

(Editor’s note: This content is sponsored by Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED).

Weld County boasted the largest percentage increase in employment in the U.S. last year – 6 percent compared to 1.8 percent nationwide – and while it is home to roughly 21,000 active oil and gas wells and produces about 85 percent of all oil and gas in the state, the area’s economic health extends far beyond drilling activity.

There’s no doubt, however, that the energy sector has been a catalyst from which secondary or support businesses have blossomed.

Construction jobs saw the biggest employment gain in the county last year, adding 1,864 jobs for an increase of 25.5 percent, followed by energy extraction and business services. Overall, Weld County’s unemployment rate sank to 5.5 percent last year, compared to 11.9 percent in 2009.

In further testament to the area’s economic diversity, agriculture in Weld County accounts for $1.2 billion in sales, and the county has become one of the state’s renewable hotspots with two Vestas plants, where components for wind-power systems are manufactured. The county’s two wind farms generate a total of about 550 megawatts worth of wind power, which is enough to support about 165,000 homes.

Much of the construction and manufacturing in Weld County has been in response to demand for commercial and industrial space. Building permits were pulled for about $365 million in construction in 2013, and so far in 2014, permits totaling $388 million have been pulled.

“I think one reason we see the construction boom is because we have a business climate that accommodates growth throughout the county,” said Eric Berlund, CEO of Upstate Colorado Economic Development, a partnership between government, business and education serving Weld County.

Colorado’s favorable economic outlook extends beyond Weld County and the Northeast corridor. “The growth for Colorado that we are forecasting for 2014 would make it the fourth fastest growing state in the country,” said economist Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the Business Research Division at the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business, in summarizing his group’s midyear outlook. “Colorado is growing at roughly twice the pace of the national economy in terms of job growth. It continues to be a shining star in the grand scheme of things, as it was in 2013.”

According to CU research, while employment in natural resources and mining is only 1.4 percent of Colorado’s total employment, the sector has been integral to the state’s post-recession economy, and its concentration is more than twice that nationally. Oil and natural gas are the most significant products of the sector in Colorado. Last December, natural resources and mining employment was forecast to increase to 31,100 jobs. It currently sits at 33,200 jobs. Employment in the sector has grown about 10 percent year-over-year.


Weld County economic notables

• Weld County is the only debt-free county in Colorado, doesn’t have a county sales or use tax, and hasn’t raised the county mill levy in more than 30 years.

• More than 5,350 new jobs between 2009 and 2012, with new capital investment of more than $1.12 billion.

• Weld County has nearly 4,000 farms producing more than $1.5 billion of market value, making it one of the top 10 agricultural producers in the nation and the richest one east of the Rocky Mountains.

• The Greeley/Weld County Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is the seventh-fastest growing in the United States, increasing by 39.7 percent from 2000 to 2007 and now totals 252,825 residents.

• Six of the 10 fastest-growing municipalities in Colorado for the decade 2000-2010 are located in Weld County, according to the Colorado State Demographers Office:

     >> Firestone – 431 percent

     >> Severance – 430 percent

     >> Frederick – 251 percent

     >> Erie – 188 percent

     >> Johnstown – 158 percent

     >> Lochbuie – 130 percent


(Source: Upstate Colorado Economic Development)