Colorado business leaders expressed concerns about Colorado's regulatory landscape, increasing "wages and benefit affordability," and high cost of living for employees due to housing affordability here. That's according to a report released Thursday by the Colorado Chamber of Commerce.
The report, produced with Dietrich Partners, a Colorado-based business consulting firm, focused on the economic landscape of the state — especially conditions that would influence decisions by business leaders to expand here.
As is typical of chambers of commerce when the Colorado Legislature starts its annual session, the report shows business leaders are asking legislators to carefully consider any new regulations.
The report notes one of "Colorado's biggest vulnerabilities" is "an increasingly complex and cumbersome state legislative and regulatory landscape."
“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 CEO of the Colorado Chamber, said in a news release. “With legislative session underway, we’re asking lawmakers to prioritize regulatory certainty and allow businesses to thrive.”
Recent policy and law changes especially concerning to business leaders include "new wage transparency laws, paid leave regulations, the retail delivery fee, and general recordkeeping requirements," according to the report.
But it also highlighted Colorado strengths: a diverse and growing economy; technological innovation; professional sports teams and "natural beauty and recreation."
Report authors interviewed C-suite executives to find their perspectives on Colorado's economic competitiveness. They represented public and private Colorado companies on the Front Range and Western Slope, with each business ranging from $8 million to $1.5 billion in revenue across 14 different industries. Each company employed between 60 and 3,000 people and has been in business anywhere from two to 97 years, according to Dietrich Partners.
“More and more people are leaving metro Denver because of the cost of living,” Matt Joblon, CEO of BMC Investments, said in the report. “This is causing the talent pool to tighten as people and quality talent are driven out of the state. The next shoe to drop is corporations leaving because they cannot find the talent to support their businesses.”
"Workforce is something that we've seen as a continued challenge over the last several years," Megan McIver, director of client services at Dietrich Partners, said in an interview. "There's a few different reasons for that. We all went through COVID, there was social unrest, there were introductions of new generations into the workforce, and so I might describe it a little bit as the perfect storm."
The report found 38% of business leaders said Colorado's labor and employment regulations are their "top business concerns" in its legislative agenda for 2023.
Meghan Dollar, senior vice president of governmental affairs at the Colorado Chamber, said before the report, they were only able to offer legislators business owner's feedback via anecdotal information. Now, they have data to stand on as well with this report.
"I think the feedback that we got in the report really helped us with our legislative agenda," Dollar said in an interview. "And I'm hopeful that we can use it as a resource for legislators to inform them on the real-world impacts of the decisions that they make."
Celia Dietrich, executive chair and founder of Dietrich Partners, noted the benefits of working in Colorado include things like quality of life and an innovative spirit. But there are still challenges businesses face with inflation, workforce constraints, housing affordability, regulatory impacts and safety.
“Executives should use the findings of this report to understand and prepare for the years ahead,” Dietrich said in the release. “We encourage proactive engagement with policymakers to understand and influence legislation that not only will impact their operations, but the greater business community.”