GREELEY — Weld County continued to be one of the fastest-growing counties in the country in 2012, according to data released this summer.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics with the United States Department of Labor published its annual report, which tracked the percent change in employment in counties with 75,000 or more employees.
From December 2011 to December 2012, Weld County increased employment by 4.2 percent. Nationally, employment increased in 287 of the 328 largest counties.
In the fourth quarter of 2012, the average weekly wage in Weld County was $831, which was a 2.1 percent increase over the same quarter in 2011.
Eric Berglund, president and CEO of Upstate Colorado Economic Development, said Weld County experienced strong growth last year.
“2012 was a really good year,” Berglund said. “The jobs created or retained were really diverse across different industries.”
Berglund said 2013 is shaping up to be a good year for the county also.
“This year, I can tell you, there’s been a lot of oil and gas activity,” Berglund said. “We haven’t seen as much of new industries coming into the area, and I think there’s a lot of factors in play there.”
He said uncertainty — especially uncertainty stemming from policy implemented at the federal, state and local level — can suppress the natural growth of business.
“At the federal level, at the end of the year, the whole debate about the budget, sequestration and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, what that may or may not look like, is affecting some of the decisions companies are making at the moment,” Berglund said. “At the state level, when the latest session of the General Assembly was in place, and the legislators were meeting, there were changes to the enterprise zone and that affects companies.”
Berglund said anytime there’s substantial regulatory policy uncertainty, companies tend to be more hesitant to invest.
“Obviously, we saw changes to gun control legislation. There were pretty significant changes proposed for oil and gas legislation, but that all got killed even thought the Oil and Gas Commission made changes,” Berglund said.
As Weld County Commissioners prepare to add a state secession question to this year’s ballot, Berglund said business owners will be watching to see how the issue plays out.
“Discussions like the 51st state obviously impact the kind of business environment we have,” Berglund said. “If there’s any uncertainty as to how public policy will look like, then businesses will have questions, such as, ‘Will taxing policies change?’ All things being equal, companies, when they look to relocate, the first thing they do is look to see if there’s any reason to exclude an area. So there’s the potential that if there’s too much uncertainty in an area, they’ll look somewhere else.”
Berglund said the U.S. labor statistics for Weld County are an encouraging sign for future growth.
“I want to say that approximately 13 percent of all the jobs in the county are in manufacturing. So it’s those kind of things that become critical and important to look at,” Berglund said. “I think Weld County is wide open for business. Our county government and most of our municipal governments are very open. We talk about a ‘friendly business environment,’ and most of Weld County is well-aligned to be able to get businesses up and running.”