Jobs, businesses recovering from pit of recession
The Grand Valley’s unemployment rate dropped from 9.6 to 8.1 percent over the past year.
While that’s not necessarily a level that’s acceptable for any period of time, it’s still remarkable considering how bad the recession was when it started in 2008, Gov. John Hickenlooper told a packed crowd at the Grand Junction Economic Partnership’s annual luncheon meeting at Two Rivers Convention Center on Tuesday.
“We’ve gone through this very difficult recession and we’re just now beginning to see the emergence of jobs and businesses that are coming,” Hickenlooper said. “The U.S. has done better than Europe, better than Asia, better than South America. We’ve led the world in our recovery.”
Much of that, at least for Mesa County, is due to the work of GJEP, which the governor praised as one that has not rested in trying to attract new businesses and the jobs that go with them.
The governor said while much more needs to be done, the state government under his leadership has done what it can to help foment business development.
It’s eliminated nearly 900 unnecessary or cumbersome state regulations, hired a state marketer for the first time ever, lowered the amount of time it takes to get an oil and gas drilling permit and actively tried to boost new business efforts.
About a year ago, for example, Hickenlooper teamed up with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin in an effort to spark a sustainable market for compressed natural gas for use in state fleet vehicles.
That effort grew to a group of 22 states seeking to do that same thing, and even included an economic development mission to Detroit automakers to get them to push more CNG vehicles onto the marketplace.
“If compressed natural gas is a buck and a half cheaper ... if it burns cheaper and keeps our air clean, if it creates jobs in the United States and keeps us from sending literally millions of dollars a week to foreign dictatorships, why aren’t we pushing that?” Hickenlooper told the GJEP crowd.
“We sat down with the senior vice presidents of Ford and General Motors and Chrysler and Honda and said we want to get compressed natural gas vehicles off the assembly line,” the governor added. “We want to save $6,000 to $8,000 per vehicle without having to do an after-market (CNG conversion). They said, ‘Governor Fallin. Aren’t you a Republican? And Governor Hickenlooper, aren’t you some kind of Democrat?’ This doesn’t have anything to do with parties. This is something that makes sense.”
He said he would resist talking about politics, but couldn’t resist offering a plug in support of Amendment S, the referendum put on next week’s ballot by the Legislature to reform state personnel laws.
After his speech, the governor also said he expected to see a healthy voter turnout this election that could rival that of 2008 and 2010, though not one that will favor either party as those two election years did for Democrats and Republicans, respectively.
Hickenlooper declined predicting which party might fare better than the other, including whether his own party would keep its majority in the Colorado Senate and win one in the House, where the GOP currently holds a one-vote lead.
“Stuff I really care about, I should be able to talk anybody into it,” Hickenlooper said. “It certainly is probably easier if your own party has a majority, but I think you can succeed in either case.”