Manufacturing jobs important to a diversified economy

By Chris Romer | Jul 21, 2016

According to the Alliance for American Manufacturing, more than 6 million U.S. manufacturing jobs vanished between 1998 and 2010. Colorado lost more than 52,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001. These middle-class jobs provided workers with a good way of life and, with their loss, entire communities have been devastated. Although manufacturing continues to struggle, there are signs of recovery and success stories in places including the Vail Valley.

We continue to work hard to ensure the Vail Valley has a diverse, year-round economy with a variety of strong industry sectors. The Eagle County economic development plan outlines the strategies and tactics including marketing our valley and building a business friendly environment in which businesses can succeed.

As reported by the Denver Post, outdoor recreation is now finally getting recognized as a major economic driver nationwide, with proposed federal legislation aiming to bolster the industry that has long languished at the fiscal kids' table. For years we've been the beneficiaries of outdoor recreation; it has put us on the map as a top international vacation destination. Our next step is to take advantage of this brand strength to develop a diverse, year-round economy, one which leverages our strength in tourism, and one which includes manufacturing.

As of 2015, there are 63 manufacturing establishments in the Vail Valley employing an average of 362 workers. Total wages paid to these individuals in 2015 was $16.3 million, and their average weekly wage was $868. The total amount of retail sales generated by this sector in 2015 was nearly $44 million. These companies are important contributors to the local economy, economic diversification and our community brand.

Our communities hold real opportunity for hardworking entrepreneurs, business owners, and employees determined to live out the lives of their dreams in the mountains of Colorado.

If you look at where there has been job growth in the mountains of Colorado since the start of the financial recession, the outdoor manufacturing industry has made great strides. Making everything from skis to beer, these companies are producing American-made goods and providing hundreds of high-quality, well-paying jobs in our community. And if you ask, most of these companies will tell you they intend to grow their businesses.

Colorado as a whole is in a strong position to lead the outdoor recreation industry on many levels. In June 2015, Governor Hickenlooper appointed Eagle resident Luis Benitez as the state's first director of the state's Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. The creation of this office exemplifies the importance of the $34.5 billion outdoor recreation industry in Colorado, and the healthy communities and healthy economies it creates throughout the state.

Plus, just this month, the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved bipartisan legislation from Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) andJeanne Shaheen (D-NH) that would analyze and provide information on the number of jobs sustained by and the economic impact attributed to the outdoor recreation industry. Their bill, the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act (S. 2219), was adopted by voice vote. It may now be considered by the full Senate.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 143,000 manufacturing jobs currently in Colorado but it's important to remember that our state has lost more than 6,000 manufacturing jobs since 2005. Manufacturing jobs account for nearly 5 percent of the state's share of total employment and more than 7 percent of the state's gross product.

Buying American-made is the most direct way anyone can support American manufacturing and manufacturing jobs. When you buy American-made goods, you elevate your purchase to the status of a conversation piece. A simple product is transformed into a symbol of resilience. Every item purchased can become a conversation about supporting the jobs of our fellow citizens who made it.

During this election season, we need to remind our elected officials, and especially those running for public office, how important manufacturing jobs are to our communities, our state and our nation.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership. Learn more at