The Digital Media Symposium, or DiMe, returns for its second year in Boulder on Friday, Feb. 18 with a great lineup of national and local panelists weighing in on new digital media. Tickets at $50 are on sale at www.dimeboulder.com.

DiMe recently received a $25,000 grant from the City of Boulder’s Arts and Business Collaborative (ABC) grants program, and the funding will help support the expansion of the symposium into a multi-day event with workshops, digital art exhibits and opportunities for collaboration.

The DiMe, which starts at 1 p.m. at the St. Julien Hotel in downtown Boulder, takes place during the?Boulder International Film Festival, which runs Feb. 17-20. DiMe is an initiative of BIFF, the Governor’s Office of Creative Industries and the Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Two panels will fill the afternoon event covering “Digital Distribution and Monetization” and “The Future of 3D.” A full listing of panel members are on the DiMe site, but panels will include Andrew Steele, a TV and cable writer with “Funny or Die,” and Don Hahn from Stone Circle Pictures, a Los Angeles-based animation and 3D film producer.

DiMe is a great event not only to learn more about new digital media technologies, but following the event you can mingle at a cash bar reception starting at 5 p.m. with local leaders and artists in Boulder’s growing sector of film, broadcasting, gaming, mobile and other entertainment-based digital media.

Like a hammer driving down hard on the nail, the last few years of the recession have taken a serious toll on the state’s economy.

A new report just issued by Gary Horvath and his Broomfield-based company Business and Economic Research at www.garyhorvath.com examines the volatility of the construction sector, pointing out that its “peaks are often more exaggerated and the troughs more severe.”

Colorado’s construction businesses, including residential, commercial and non-building (infrastructure such as roads and utilities) now have suffered declines in employment from 2006 to 2009.

And when you realize, as Horvath explains, that even despite the recession’s effects, Colorado has a higher concentration of construction works (called the “location quotient” in economist speak) than other parts of the U.S., then the job losses have hit especially hard.

Colorado construction employment now has declined to 7.2 percent, or about 131,000 jobs in 2009, from 8.9 percent, or 167,647 jobs, in 2006.

Fewer construction jobs, of course, also smacked a number of manufacturing sectors that produce materials for builders and contractors. These include everything from asphalt to paint to HVAC equipment. Colorado actually has five seasons, Horvath reminds us. Winter, spring, summer, fall, and “cone” season.

The headlines of Colorado bank failures often fostered by a heavy reliance on commercial lending prior to the U.S. recession remind us that numerous professional services depend heavily on the health of the construction industry. The list of those losing high-paying jobs goes on with insurers, real estate agents, appraisers and mortgage loan brokers.

The category of financial employment related to construction has lost nearly 8,000 jobs since 2006, Horvath’s figure show.

One anomaly is that the category architects and engineers, “thought to be a leading indicator of economic activity,” Horvath says, actually remained fairly steady from 2006 to 2009, reaching a high of 44,593 jobs in 2008 before flattening out to 41,560 jobs in 2009. The pattern was similar for both interior and industrial design jobs.

Overall, Colorado suffered a net loss of about 105,700 jobs between 2007 and 2009, and construction workers and workers in related sectors accounted for about 56 percent of those losing their jobs with 36,700 jobs lost in construction and 22,200 jobs lost in related sectors. That’s a very hard hit.

So where do we go from here? Can a surge in construction business help save the day?

With a population of 5 million people and population growth forecast at 1.5 to 2 percent, Horvath says, the need is clear for a strong construction sector to support new homes and buildings as the economy begins to grow. Colorado, however, may finally be bringing the percentage of construction industry jobs (again it’s the location quotient) back into line with other states.

That location quotient stat, Horvath says, is down to 1.29 in 2009 from 1.44 in 2001, and may very well need to revert to 1.0 for a healthy balance in the state’s economic outlook.

Different economic forecasts for overall Colorado job expansion this year range from growth of zero to 2 percent or completely flat to 44,000 new hires.

In Horvath’s November forecast, he expected some 15,000 new employees to be added this year, based on real GDP growth of 2.4 percent. Both of those numbers, he now says, “are likely to be revised upward.”

And that’s good news for all of the unemployed waiting for the hiring to begin.

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Feb
05

Jurassicasters at Nissi’s

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Jan
27

Not Christo Art

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It’s just the Residences at 29th Street being built in Boulder.

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University of Colorado economist Richard Wobbekind sees modest growth for Colorado in 2011 as the state continues to deal with high unemployment.

It was economic forecast déjà-vu this week as the University of Colorado’s top economist addressed Boulder business leaders.

I covered the same event – the Boulder & Beyond Economic Forecast organized by the Boulder Economic Council – a year ago and wrote about how Colorado’s population continues to grow despite continuing job losses and an “unemployment number that isn’t improving much.”

So as 2011 kicks into gear, what’s here to great us? 

  • A state unemployment rate that just inched up a notch to a record-matching 8.8 percent in November.  A year ago we worried when it was 7.5 percent. Colorado hasn’t seen unemployment this high since the early ‘80s.
  • A slow housing market that keeps dragging on, with foreclosures saturating the market and holding down both new construction starts and prices.  The high-end market for homes above $1 million is especially tough.
  • State and federal deficits that politicians seem unable to deal with as the slower economy puts a stranglehold on tax revenues. Colorado, with a projected $1.5 billion budget gap forecast for 2011, joins a crowd of other states in the same boat. Colorado now has debt of nearly $25.7 billion. Only four states, Alaska, Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota, predict they’ll be in the black. That’s almost peanuts, however, when compared to the U.S. debt, which just crossed the $14 trillion mark for the first time.

Go to www.usdebtclock.org to really see some scary numbers. When I clicked it, the debt level equals $45, 125 for each citizen. Of course the numbers constantly click higher.

So one has to wonder? Why does everyone seem so happy and optimistic at these 2011 forecasts when charts and graphs – and even a 9-Inning Scorecard that CU Economist Richard Wobbekind presented – still show all of these plunging red bars?

Wobbekind wasn’t alone this year with a fairly upbeat  forecast.  On another event panel, Denver economist Patricia Silverstein presented a study by metro Denver economic developers that listed 100 measures that keep Colorado competitive. On the list, the state’s 67 “strengths” easily outweighed the 33 “challenges.”

Turns out, Silverstein said, Colorado continues to rank very high in everything from venture capital investments, stock IPOs, renewable energy sources, number of patents filed, high school ACT & SAT scores and finally, the lowest level of obesity in the country. Smiles all around.

And it’s reports like these that continue to get people packing their U-Hauls or jumping on the next flight (another stat is that Denver International Airport hit a record-breaking 52 million passengers last year) for the “gold” in them thar Colorado hills.

Only one small problem.  Colorado lost 140,000 jobs in 2009 and 2010, and although Wobbekind is now calling for “moderate” growth, that translates into only 10,000 new jobs this year. The recession essentially gave Colorado a zero net gain in jobs for the past 10 years, Wobbekind pointed out.

So you ask, where’s the good news? With cheap capital, businesses are busy making investments, but mostly in equipment, computers and software – not new employees. Economists see an 8 to 9 percent increase in business fixed investment for 2011, a good long-term sign.

Consumers, the real engine behind the GDP, somehow have finally reduced their debts and saving rates look stable at around 5 percent. As a result, retail sales are actually getting back to pre-recession levels. Consumer spending on cars, clothes, food and other items now accounts for about 70 percent of gross domestic product.

Wobbekind is calling for U.S. GDP growth of about 3.5 percent in 2011, but he admits the majority view among economists is closer to 3 percent or lower.

Both businesses and consumers seem to be a pretty confident bunch all of a sudden.  The CU Leeds Business Confidence Index just got back to 54.8 in the first quarter – just a little under the 54.9 in the second quarter of 2007 and up from 48.6 percent last quarter. U.S. consumer confidence hit an 8-month high this week, according to the Conference Board.

While some job recovery is taking place in the private sector, Wobbekind said it’s offset by a loss in federal jobs – not your typical scenario.  “There’s an awful lot of repair that needs to be done at this point,” he said, describing the job picture.

Boulder itself, Wobbekind said, is faring better than most of the state. The latest unemployment rate for Boulder and Broomfield counties dropped a bit this week to 6.5 percent. Colorado home price appreciation turned negative in 2010, down 1.7%, but that beats Nevada’s downturn of 10 percent. Boulder may end up a percent or so.

Construction jobs in both residential and commercial sectors have taken “the biggest pounding,” Wobbekind said.  Manufacturing jobs, in a slow decline for many years, will continue to shrink.  On the upside, Wobbekind is forecasting a 15.7 percent growth in professional, scientific and technical services jobs. Depending on if your in an up or down jobs sector, wages might actually begin to increase this year.

So are economic forecasters just putting a happy face on rather dismal economic figures that still look much better when compared to the past few recession years? Or will 2011 surprise everyone with a better turnaround than expected.  The real answer, you see, will come at the 2012 economic forecast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jan
23

Pheasants hanging after hunt

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Pheasants in friend’s garage

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Jan
23

Packer HQ @ Rocky Flats Lounge

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Cheeseheads, ribs, bloody marys & beer.

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