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3/4/2004

Recovery has no shortcuts

By Pam Mellskog
The Daily Times-Call

DENVER — A no-frills, back-to-basics approach to marketing seems a yawner answer to Colorado’s hard-scrabble economic situation.

But that’s exactly what Ajay Menon recommended to nearly 400 people gathered at the Adam’s Mark Hotel on Thursday for the Rocky Mountain Direct Marketing Association/CSU Economic Development Forum Breakfast.

As dean of the College of Business at Colorado State University, Menon admitted self-interest in his back-to-basics/back-to-school message — though marketing and research and development usually get cut first during tough times.

“That’s the wrong way to go,” he said.

Dot-com euphoria, he explained, exemplified business rife with shortcuts — some so notorious that they remain in the lexicon.

For instance, the onslaught of get-rich-quick startups overwhelmed venture capitalists and ultimately instituted the “$50 million rule,” the informal cut-off for funding consideration.

That caused many companies to inflate business plans and depart from conventional risk analysis and growth strategies, according to Menon.

“But technology does not rewrite the basics of economics,” he said.

To boost recovery, companies do well, he said, to do the homework and conduct business based on tried-and-true metrics.

Nevertheless, with few exceptions the business climate here won’t be robust again until next year at the earliest, according to Menon.

He projected Colorado’s 2004 growth rate at 1.5 percent, a figure supported by increases in just four areas — single family/non-residential construction, information technology, professional and business services and health care.

The Department of Commerce has reported 4.1 percent gross domestic product growth in the fourth quarter, he added, and explained that Colorado slid into the recession late and is recovering late.

Bright spots statewide, he continued, would be most noticeable in professional and business services catering to Baby Boomer needs for retirement planning.

Employment, meanwhile, would stay fairly flat, Menon said.

“I hate to say this, but every recovery is jobless. Jobs don’t immediately follow,” he explained.

Soft jobs, he said, stemmed from a combination of cost-saving/labor-enhancing technologies and benefit rates that have spiked 8.7 percent on average, the highest rate yet.

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 224, or by e-mail at pmellskog@times-call.com.