Editor’s Notebook: Don’t worry about slowdown

We need a chance to catch our breaths

Local business leaders and citizens should welcome predictions by the region’s top economists that growth will be slower this year.

While robust growth in building permits, retail sales, exports, bank deposits, etc., leads to a vibrant, booming economy, pausing for a deep breath has significant benefits, too.

Perhaps now we’ll be able to decide whether we really need a new subdivision on parcel X or whether it should be preserved as open space. The explosion of subdivisions throughout Larimer and Weld counties makes proper planning essential to avoid Denver-style sprawl.

And slower growth will allow Larimer County and cities such as Fort Collins to implement their new plans for development without the pressure that a booming economy presents.

Residential developers can pause and let the market absorb the homes they’ve built and lots they’ve developed, while brokers can relax from the frenzied pace of the past few years while still experiencing growth.

On the retail front, perhaps a slight slowdown will give pause to developers and retailers considering building in the market. The vast array of new retailers and restaurants that have entered Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming beg the question as to who will be the first to fall when a real downturn hits, as it inevitably will. Slower growth now will make that event less painful.

Banks, however, seem to be in for another year of heated competition. While some will be more conservative on loans, new ones come into the market every day, either as branches of existing institutions or as entirely new charters. This group, especially, must be wary of overreaching with their lending portfolios in a hunt for market share.

Everyone should remember that in addition to being propelled by the energy bust, Colorado’s severe recession of the late 1980s was also caused by loose lending by the region’s financial institutions. It could happen again, but a year of slower growth among the various industries will help bankers evaluate more carefully their lending portfolios.

Perhaps office developers, too, will weigh whether they should build now or wait, given the hundreds of thousands of square feet likely to come onto the market when Symbios and the federal government build their new facilities. To build now might exacerbate the problem then.

But let’s not get too morbid. What we’re talking about is slower growth, yes, but growth nonetheless. This economy is essentially strong, with extremely low unemployment, positive population growth and booming retail sales.

It’s so strong that we can afford to slow down.

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While I don’t mind embracing slower growth for the economy as a whole, that doesn’t mean I intend it for my own business. Some lucky readers this month will see one example of our plans for expansion in different areas, with the publication of our first Northern Front Range Book of Lists, which compiles in tabloid-sized, magazine format all the lists we did in 1996, along with a bevy of new ones.

The Book of Lists is an excellent reference and marketing tool, with rankings of businesses in certain industries by sales, employment or some other measure. Each entry includes key contacts, addresses, phone numbers and other valuable data. The book retails for $25, plus tax, postage and handling, but is available to paid subscribers free of charge. So subscribe for $20, and you save $5. Whatta deal.

Christopher Wood can be reached at (970) 221-5400, (970) 356-1683, (800) 440-3506, or via e-mail at ncbr@aol.com.