Recent survey details business climate in Routt County | SteamboatToday.com

Recent survey details business climate in Routt County

— Few surprises are included in the analysis of a business climate survey commissioned by Routt County and given to a sample of business owners this spring.

The 122 survey respondents lauded Routt County as a place to do business because of a diverse economy, quality schools and a generally positive, supportive atmosphere.

However, many of the same respondents said running a business could be challenging due to limited air travel to and from the area, a lack of affordable housing for employees and a general lack of a qualified workforce.

"There weren't a lot of big surprises," said Dave Belin, director of consulting services for RRC Associates, a Boulder-based research firm hired to analyze the survey results.

Funded by a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the survey was shaped by a committee comprised of representatives from the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, the city's Economic Development Council, Routt County, the city of Steamboat Springs, the Community Agriculture Alliance and Colorado Mountain College.

The survey was administered by mail in May to a random sampling of 690 businesses by the University of Colorado Denver's Colorado Center for Community Development Technical Assistance Program.

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More than 200 surveys were returned as undeliverable, and many businesses didn't respond within the month-long response time, leaving just 122 responses.

"There's a lot of businesses I think might have slipped through the cracks," Belin said. "We would have liked to have seen more surveys."

Belin and RRC research analyst Paula Ninger presented the analysis Tuesday to a handful of survey organizers and a few others at Centennial Hall.

Some interesting points in the survey results included the high level of dissatisfaction by business owners in the available workforce in the county.

Anecdotal responses in the surveys revealed some owners are seeking more employees with basic English and writing skills, technical skills, legal skills or simply a better work ethic.

"Four in 10 of your businesses are saying they're struggling to find employees with particular skills," Belin said.

The perceived lack of qualified employees is also concerning because 35 percent of businesses surveyed said they planned to increase their employee numbers within the next year.

Another concern for those businesses seeking additional employees is the lack of affordable, available housing, with 61 percent of respondents dissatisfied with housing affordability and 70 percent dissatisfied with rental housing availability.

Despite housing concerns and the desire from many businesses for expanded air travel options, 75 percent of businesses reported an overall satisfaction with conducting business here.

Many anecdotal responses praised the community support for their businesses, with 61 percent of respondents reporting they felt supported by their community — 28 percent were neutral and 11 percent felt unsupported.

"A lot of people mention that word of mouth is their most effective advertising technique," Ninger said.

The full report will be posted on steamboatbiz.com.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow