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Parker's got workers coming and going

People commuting elsewhere for jobs double those coming in, report says


The majority of working Parker residents commute out of town to their jobs every day, according to a report from economists at Arapahoe/Douglas Works.

The report cites 2014 statistics from the United States Census Bureau, and was featured in the March 2017 Parker town administrator's report. It states 21,936 Parker residents leave town for their jobs each day, while 11,044 people commute into the town to work.

Parker Senior Planner Bryce Matthews said the numbers shouldn't be surprising, especially to anyone who drives Parker Road during rush hour.

“The more people we have driving in and out of town for work, the more impact it will have on our roads and traffic,” said Matthews, a 14-year veteran of the planning department.

The findings, he said, don't represent a problem as much as a chance to build a more well-rounded town for the future.

“It's an opportunity for the community to become more holistic,” he said.

For Arapahoe/Douglas Works Senior Economist Patrick Holwell, the numbers indicate that the jobs available in town, predominantly in the service industry, don't pay enough for employees to live in Parker, where rentals are scarce and home costs are high. Higher-paying professional and technical jobs that residents flock to are located in the Southeast Corridor and Denver Tech Center.

Most counties in Colorado, Holwell said, are "net exporters" of employees. Only Denver and Arapahoe Counties import more workers than they export.

Matthews said town planners have a three-tiered approach to creating more balanced numbers by the time the next report is issued.

One objective, he said, is to create the opportunity for more high-paying jobs in town. Current zoning near Parker Adventist Hospital will allow for other medical offices and services, and zoning around town can accommodate office space, Matthews said.

Attracting traded industries, software developers for example, is another approach Holwell said works well to create robust growth and higher paying jobs for locals.

"The products (such a company) produces are sold all over the world, and that money flows back to the company. A significant portion is earned by the workers, who tend to make high incomes," Holwell said. "As more software is developed and sold, the company adds jobs. These workers spend their money, which raises local demand for goods and services."

As of the study's publication, most of the 86 percent of workers who commute into town each day work in the retail or service industry. Commuters from Aurora make up the biggest share with 1,717 workers, while Denver sent the second-highest number of employees Parker's way with 1,326. The next highest city contributing to Parker's workforce was Centennial with 595 commuters.

Helping those workers get to their jobs, Matthews said, is another task planning staff is addressing with RTD.

“We're constantly working with them to get more weekend and later evening service,” he said. “Their decisions are based on ridership, and ridership last time I looked was OK.”

But Holwell stresses that quality of life is another factor to be considered, one that suffers if all of a region's employees spend large chunk of each day in a car, bus or train going back and forth from work.

"The only effective approach I know of is if residents, local businesses, chambers and economic developers work together and create growth plans that take these issues into account," Holwell said. "Studies I’ve read talk about quality of life as being the best long term strategy for continued prosperity. It isn’t always expedient, but this approach creates strong local economies."

Making room for condominiums and apartments for retail and food service workers to rent or buy, Matthews said, reflects the goal set out in the 2035 Master Plan of allowing citizens to "live, work and play" in Parker. Single-family homes have been and will continue to be the predominant type of new development, Matthews said, but the objective is to “mix in” other types of housing.

Currently, 1,798 Parker residents work where they live, according to the report. Matthews said another of the town's goals is to increase opportunities for more people to do likewise.

“It really helps with the sense of community if you live and work in the same (place),” Matthews said. “It's nice when you see your child's teacher at the grocery store and you can talk.”

Building that community feeling will require officials to look beyond Parker's borders, Holwell said.

"What the numbers mean for Parker and the region is that we need to begin thinking regionally when we address quality of life, labor force and economic development issues," Holwell said. "No one town or city can afford to go it alone."


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