A Message from Michael Wamsganz

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February 9, 2024 | Article | 5 min | Business Insights

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“Business is booming in the Denver area despite increased interest rates and inflation”, said Michael Wamsganz, President and CEO of Citywide Banks, a division of HTLF Bank. He sees the impact of inflation on consumers more than businesses.

Quote from Michael Wamsganz

“We’re talking to businesses every week in the Denver market and they are doing well,” he said. “But the interest rate is clearly having an impact on automobile and home sales.”

Colorado is one of the fastest-growing states in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Business and employment opportunities in the Denver area drive much of that growth.

The Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area has 2.97 million people and a low unemployment rate — about 3.4 percent, slightly less than the national rate. About 39 percent of the population have a college bachelor’s degree.

This population growth drives opportunities like school expansions and steel manufacturing. The tech sector also continues to grow.


“The bank’s portfolio is diversified across sectors like retail, restaurants, tech and manufacturing. About two-thirds is commercial/industrial and the rest is real estate.

We don’t really have any concentrations over 10 percent within any industry type,” he said.

This past year featured more work with clients in the cold storage businesses at Denver International Airport. All around the airport you have cold storage areas for prepared food distribution for flights and to consumers’ homes. Also travel through the airport is hopping, more than 890,000 people went through DIA for Thanksgiving 2023.

Businesses have been resilient in finding other opportunities for their skills and products, he said.

A large steel manufacturer has less work in commercial buildings but is finding government contracts for school districts because of population growth particularly toward Greeley. That city is becoming a bedroom community to Denver, even though it’s about an hour drive from the city. Colorado Springs and Pueblo to the south are also experiencing growth.

“So no doom and gloom and everyone’s talking soft landing,” he said.


On the real estate side, refinancing has dropped significantly with higher interest rates. That will squeeze cash flows on commercial properties with loan renewals next year.

“On the commercial side, we’ll probably see the impact of inflation and higher interest rates starting next year, when investment real estate comes up for renewal,” he said. Rates now are about 8 percent compared to 2.25 percent a few years ago. “Can the business cashflow sustain that kind of interest rate? If not, what’s going to be the right sizing for that loan?”

While Wamsganz is optimistic for 2024, he cautions, “We do have uncertainty now and we’re going into an election.”


Building solid relationships with your banker, your staff and your community is the best protection against uncertain economic times.

Quote from Michael Wamsganz

“It’s having that close relationship with your bank. And making sure your banker understands what you as a business do,” he said.

Predicting cash flows is harder in the current economic cycle, but that makes it more important to have adequate liquidity and pay down debt.

Local business owners should focus on diversity, duplication within their revenue streams, improving their online presence and closely monitoring industry trends to adapt and thrive.

Becoming more tech savvy translated into new revenue streams for a client, a local audio-visual company. Morphing from retail stores in Denver into an online operation netted them sales all around the Southwest.

The same rules of customer service apply to virtual stores, making the process easy for the customer.

“Can they email you or communicate with you? It’s like anything, you’ve got to talk to somebody about seven times before they’re ready to purchase, so you need to stay out in front of them,” Wamsganz said.

Because finding good employees is tough and replacing them is expensive, Wamsganz offered this advice.

“It’s extremely important for local business owners to listen to their employees and focus on strong employee engagement, because keeping top talent within your organization will drive customer engagement, customer satisfaction and frankly, reduce ongoing hiring expenses.”

Successful businesses are adaptable and stay on top of industry trends. “It’s their job to look down the hallway and around the corner,” he said.


Fraudsters continue to find more sophisticated techniques.

About 65 percent of organizations and small businesses fell victim to payment fraud attacks in 2022, Wamsganz said. Numbers are about $3.6 billion worldwide.

Bankers can help with treasury management solutions like Positive Pay to protect them from fraud and improve their cash flow. Positive Pay allows customers to review account numbers, check amounts and payee names before the bank pays the check.

Businesses must educate their employees and implement strategies to mitigate fraud, Wamsganz said.

  • Controls on email must be tight because of phishing attempts.
  • Payment on accounts should be through a secure online environment.
  • Limit the number of employees authorized to process those payments.
  • Buy cybersecurity insurance for their accounts.

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