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Chapter 13

Infrastructure

Infrastructure presents one of the biggest challenges for Colorado, as a hot housing market and limited public transportation system present significant considerations for the workforce.

For today’s top talent, the job market is only one consideration in choosing where to live. Other important factors in the competition among regions to attract and retain talent are housing and transportation infrastructure. Workers want to live affordably yet comfortably while having an easy commute from home to work to play.

Mention infrastructure to a Coloradan, and you’ll immediately hear complaints about the housing market. With so many people moving into the state, housing supply has been unable to keep up. Property transactions move quickly as buyers get into bidding wars for the limited inventory that is available.

Affordable workforce housing is one of the biggest barriers to attract and retain the best talent.

Chancellor Phil DiStefano, University of Colorado Boulder

Recruiters say that the Colorado housing market almost always comes up in discussion for people moving into the state. And with the market being relatively challenging, people aren’t relocating to Colorado and then looking for a job; they’re finding the job first and then seeking housing.

Affordable rental housing presents another challenge. Housing should not exceed 30 percent of an individual’s income—but to meet that commonly accepted guideline, someone earning the minimum wage of $8.23 and working 40 hours a week could only afford an apartment that rented for $428 or less per month.

But while housing in Colorado is certainly perceived as expensive for those moving from the middle of the country, Denver’s housing remains cheaper than housing in its big coastal competitor cities.

Broadband internet presents another infrastructure challenge—particularly in rural Colorado, where both speed and access are lagging compared to major metro areas. In a survey of 1,800 travelers, 99.8 percent say that access to guest room wifi is important to their hotel stay—so how does that translate to employee communities that don’t have consistent, reliable access?

Finally, transportation—or lack thereof—is becoming a growing problem. Colorado road systems are challenging, causing delays and problems for commuters and commerce. The Denver metropolitan area currently experiences 200,000 hours of vehicle delay each day.

The gridlock on I-70 isn’t just an annoyance; it stops commerce.

Noel Ginsburg, CEO, Intertech Plastics

Executives say there is a huge demand for rail service connecting Fort Collins to Denver to Colorado Springs, because talent can’t easily travel between those areas. Unfortunately, costs are prohibitive and such a system is unlikely to be constructed in the near future.

As the population increases, executives emphasize the need to develop the transportation systems to enable efficient transportation without using cars. Millennials particularly value the ability to use sustainable forms of transportation, such as public transit, bicycling, and walking. This type of easy mobility is even more important as workers increasingly shift from one job to another rather than stay at one company for the duration of their careers.