Commentary: Labor-force study points way toward regional cooperation; Help may be on the way

Local economic-development leaders — from Fort Collins, Greeley, Longmont and Loveland — have joined forces to commission a study of the region˜s labor shortage, probably the single-greatest obstacle to the region˜s economic well-being.
An outside firm will conduct the study of the labor market, including which skills are in demand and which are in surplus. The study will also ask business leaders to think ahead to determine what skills will be needed one, two, even five years in the future.
Business owners sometimes complain that political and economic-development leaders are too detached, that they haven˜t a clue as to what troubles them, or that they offer no solutions to problems.
Not so in Northern Colorado. Roland Mower in Fort Collins, Bill Argo in Greeley, John Hunt in Longmont and Don Churchwell in Loveland should be commended for collaborating on a project that cries out for regional solutions.
We are building one economy in Northern Colorado, not four. Workers can live in any community and commute to another. Companies either have facilities spread throughout the region or draw workers from a broad geographic area. The shortage even has companies feeding off of one another, luring workers as if they˜re free-agent baseball players.
Northern Colorado˜s greatest enemy in the labor squeeze might very well be demographics. We˜re experiencing slower population growth, and the high level of participation of women in the work force might fall, according to one economist. Both these factors have helped ease the labor shortage up until now, but just watch in the years ahead, as we grapple with a crisis that some believe will last at least until the year 2010.
Solving the labor shortage might very well be impossible. But, through initiatives such as this, we can at least learn to deal with it and ease its effects.