What attracts business to relocate?


​It was somewhat pleasing to see the upward trend in employment figures in Mesa County and concurrent increase in sales tax revenues. As one looks more deeply into the employment figures and consumer spending patterns, one’s feeling — certainly mine — is probably one of cautious optimism.

While the economic picture is slowly improving, we still suffer from fewer employed individuals than in the past, mainly due to the downsizing of the energy industry.

Individuals with skilled positions in energy production can usually find employment by relocating to an area that is in the process of development.

I also would expect the median wage of workers that remain in the area, including those newly hired, to be a lower figure than during the apex of energy production. There are few other industries that hire such a significant percentage of semiskilled workers at such high wages. This is not to imply those positions are easy, but simply that they are obtainable with less industry specific background. They require a highly developed work ethic and adaptability.

My expectation is there will be significant resurgence in the energy sector if the Jordan Cove natural gas transmission pipeline project is approved by the Trump administration.

If job numbers continue to grow and revenue increases​,​ we should take the opportunity to carefully study the elements that brought this about and be extremely careful not to confuse correlation with causation.

This is something that is often expressed in statistical analysis as the danger in assigning a connection between two events simply because they happen at the same time or in the same place. This is further aggravated by human nature, where people want to believe that efforts on their part are controlling on positive outcomes and completely unconnected to negative ones.

For instance, I’m fairly certain an economic resurgence won’t be the result of a few people taking the opportunity to dine downtown so they can receive free admission to an old movie. But I’m sure some will want to believe that to be a factor.

Additionally, many events are the result of things completely out of our control but as humans we don’t like that feeling,​ so we prefer to ascribe results to actions which we are able to influence.

As Nassim Taleb, author of “Fooled by Randomness” eloquently describes it, “formation of our beliefs is fraught with superstitions — even today (I might say, especially today). Just as one day some primitive tribesman scratched his nose, saw rain falling, and developed an elaborate method of scratching his nose to bring on the much-needed rain, we link economic prosperity to some rate cut by the Federal Reserve Board, or the success of a company with the appointment of the new president ‘at the helm.’ ”

Whether the events that help us or hurt us are actually within our immediate control is no more important than our commitment to understanding them without the liabilities of political philosophy.

We shouldn’t clap ourselves on the back as architects of success anymore than we dismiss causes of failure as having nothing do with us.

I’m trying to suggest through all of this that as things continue to improve economically, instead of trying to guess what will attract new business creation, we should probably spend much more time on finding out what factors triggered relatively new business interests to locate or expand in the area.

To effectively accomplish this we need researchers with methods that won’t discount information because it doesn’t fit in with their political positions or desire to validate their own beliefs.

We also have to be prepared to discover some randomness. Maybe someone’s car broke down on the interstate on a pleasant day and they decided this would be a great place to move their business and practice their hobby of nude, outdoor, calligraphy.

Much of what I hear about reasons for business location in Western Colorado is anecdotal and we spend a lot of time and treasure trying to attract things we want and far too little on discovering what attracted business that is already here.

Perhaps it’s because we’re afraid to hear things with which we don’t agree.​

Rick Wagner is a Grand Junction attorney who maintains a political blog, The War on Wrong. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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