moving to Durango, Colorado (Denver: construction, place to live, military)
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Jazzlover, I was looking at an economic forecast for LaPlata County produced by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs in November 2010 from this page Colorado Department of Local Affairs - Economic Forecasts and it seems to forecast the county adding over 10,000 jobs between 2010 and 2020 and pretty healthy total income growth. Maybe this is too formula driven and / or too optimistic but that is what I see. This forecast of 2.5-2.8% annual job growth is about halfway between the growth rate seen in the first half of last decade and the growth rate seen at the very end of the last decade. Do you disagree with this forecast? If so, what source and / or projections do you consider more accurate? Do you or your sources think the job forecast should be 25% - 50% less rosy or more?
Further it shows very strong growth into the future for tourism jobs and jobs related to "wealth & investment income" and "retiree spending". Do you agree of disagree with these being major drivers of future job & income growth for La Plata County?
Do you see health services and other professional services (including financial services) as making even larger job & economic impacts for Durango in the future as the more balanced center of a fairly large, economically unbalanced and geographically isolated region that needs a center and the services it can provide?
Durango is a metro of over 50,000 now (and expected to get to 60,000 not long after 2015). It is also just a bit over 50 miles from the Farmington metro of 125,000. At that size itself and with that degree of proximity to a larger market it isn't exactly the same reality and challenge as faced by other western Colorado communities, say Craig or Alamosa or places even smaller. It is perhaps most comparable to Garfield County and probably has (and will have) more in common with Mesa County than the small counties. 50,000 population is often a threshold for getting new retail operations from national companies or even getting considered for most primary job relocations and start-ups. Being comparatively quite isolated (way off the interstate) is still obviously a major deterrent or fundamental obstacle though to a lot of economic possibilities.
I agree that the next decade is going to be more challenging in lots of ways than the last few for Durango, Colorado and the country as a whole (and probably beyond the next one). How bad the outcome will be is hard to say precisely. I don’t think it is all locked in and decided already.
I disagree with most all of it. My reasoning is pretty simple: Most such projections are made by extrapolating recent historical trends into the future. It's usually a fairly safe way to predict because most of the time it is right. But, when it is wrong, it is REALLY wrong. Why? Because every so often there are dramatic shifts in the underlying factors upon which the historical trends were based. We are in the midst of a number of those massive shifts now. The accelerating and very likely permanent destruction of a lot of middle-class net worth and earning power is one of them. Another is the long-term increase in energy costs--especially petroleum--is essentially locked in--notwithstanding that there will be short-term declines in prices as the economy contracts, with larger run-ups in prices occurring anytime the economy attempts to wake from its coma. The analogy I use for a lot of this is to imagine someone spending 10% more each year for 20 years. The natural prediction would be for that spending to continue to increase at that rate for the foreseeable future, right? But, if one looks at the guy's bank account and figures out that he is actually spending it down every year, at some point the guy goes broke and can't spend any more--and the spending crashes. So much for the fancy prediction. I believe that is where we are individually, and as a country. The only unanswered question is when we hit the brick wall. I suspect it will be within the next few years, at the latest.
LaPlata County, for its part in this, has its own unique problems. It is not immune from the water supply problems that plague much of Colorado. It got the Animas-LaPlata porkbarrel water project, but a lot of that water is dedicated to satisfy treaties with the Utes and Navajos--the latter being in New Mexico. The project does little to augment water supplies for non-Indian water users in LaPlata County--save that it protects some LaPlata County water rights holders from having their water rights trumped by century-plus old treaty settlements with the Utes and Navajos that could have potentially dried up lots of non-Indian water users. Durango itself gets most of its water from the Animas River--and water quality is declining severely enough in the Animas due to water discharges from abandoned mining operations in Silverton that some of those mining areas are now in the process of being declared Superfund sites. In short, LaPlata County and Southwest Colorado is facing growing problems in having sufficient water to continue growing at anything like the rates it has seen in the past few decades.
As for "wealth income" and "retiree spending"--that is a complete joke for the long-term. Here's the deal: the Baby Boomers and a little of the following generation are the LAST generations of Americans that are going to have the retirement income (if they can really retire at all) to afford any of the stuff that places like Durango offer. As that group dies off--and it is starting to--there will be no one coming up to replace them. It's just one more "bubble" that is going to deflate. As for the uber-rich, they are a fickle bunch. When a place loses its "shine"--when the amenities they seek are no longer there because of a declining general economic base--they bolt to somewhere else. Even if they stay, the are incapable of supporting the broader population and economic base the size of an area like Durango has. Make no mistake, it has been the middle- and upper middle class that has made the Durango economy what it is over the last 40-50 years--and that demographic is running out of "juice." Like it or not, Durango still lives or dies on middle-class tourism and that is a declining demographic going forward. An illustration of this is a friend of mine who runs a tourist-related in the area and has been for over 30 years. Lucky for him, he has an independent income now from another career outside of the area. He has watched the average age of his clientèle go up one year for every year that he has run his business. When he started, most of his customers were in their late 20's to late 30's with families. Now, they are in their late 50's and 60's with no children with them. He sums up the conundrum simply: "The retired Boomers are the only ones consistently with both the time and money to come here now; anyone younger usually lacks either the money or the time, or lacks both."
As I stated in an above post--Colorado, in general, and Durango, in particular, spent several decades in a very economically and demographically favored position and most of the economic growth and population growth that has been the "norm" for the past half-century occurred in that favorable environment. The "worm has turned" and now Colorado is going to slip back into the very less favorable environment that it endured for the first half of the 20th Century. There will be Coloradans who survive and maybe even prosper in that much more caustic environment (and I intend to be one), but most people won't because--like they say about Army Generals--they are always too busy fighting the last war--they can't see or refuse to see that the game has changed.
[quote=jazzlover;21615779]I have never said that rural Colorado was unique in its economic dilemmas--I also see plenty of other places suffering economic pain right now. Unfortunately, a lot of people get a jaded view of Colorado on this forum, thinking it is someplace with beautiful scenery and a wonderfully healthy economy, to boot.
You never said that?!? With a straight face you say that?!? Your entire existence on this board is based on your assertions that rural CO is unique to the world so don't you dare crawdad now, just say you've been wrong and we'll have more respect for you. Wowzers, I never thought I'd see the day when Jazz cried "Uncle", but here we are. Give someone enough rope...
And you're right, someone on this board is definitely jaded. I see very few, if any "people" talk up the Colorado economy on this board, only you tearing it down. A typical thread begins: "Thinking of moving to Colorado", followed shortly by one of your comments of how horrible it is to live here. At no time does anyone talk up the sterling state of the Colorado economy but that never stops you, not a chance. Who are these "a lot of people"? You allude to them often, but I NEVER see their posts. You use your own fallacious posts to prop up your next argument, and then have the audacity to call us "fools".
It's difficult to debate someone like you on facts because you insist on moving the target until you frame the debate in such a way that you can't lose, or so you think. I said difficult, not impossible .
One of the reason that the out-of-state transplants are resented by so many long-time rural Coloradans is that those newcomers tend to vehemently oppose the traditional industries that actually paid decent wages to their employees, were something beyond a low-wage seasonal employer, and actually stayed in business for more than a few years.
If that is truly the case, you may be interested to learn that it is the people holding on to the resentment that have the bigger problem, not the ones being resented. Anger, frustration, resentment, bitterness, etc have been linked with many diseases.
Bitterness and resentment makes us foolish. Bitterness provokes people to do stupid things and to say stupid things. Bitterness hurts us. Bitterness is an emotional suicide. Bitterness is drinking poison while hoping the other person will die. It is a very slow form of destroying one's peace of mind. It prolongs the hurt and it makes us miserable. Bitterness makes everyday life miserable.
Normally bitter people have an amazing memory for the tiniest detail, and they wallow in self-pity and resentment. They record every offense in their and are always ready to show others how much they have been hurt. Bitter people defend their grudges constantly: they feel that they have been hurt too deeply and too often, and that this exempts them from the need to forgive. Their hearts are sometimes so full of resentment that they no longer have the capacity to love.
At the risk of sounding downbeat, a few thoughts on the future of Durango.
To begin with, it is well situated. With great scenery and easy access to a whole lot more of it. Directly on a major river, although that also implying the limits imposed in a semi-arid region. No wonder it has become the regional center for commerce in southwestern Colorado. Its isolation from other larger population centers can prove as much an attraction as detriment.
However, as with all other places, and more so than many, Durango is reliant upon the broader outside world. Its settlement was reliant upon the establishment of the mines to the north in the San Juans, and they upon the goods and services Durango could provide, and both upon the regional provision center of newly minted Denver, serving as supply point for small settlements throughout Colorado. It was in enough people from the East appearing that the balance of power shifted and the U.S. Army show the Ute indians the door from their ancestral home. The heavy reliance upon outside resources and markets demonstrated in the enterprise and emergence of the Durango & Rio Grande railroad into Durango, and later the several narrow gauge lines of Otto Mears from out of Silverton to the more isolated mining camps.
The affairs of Greece may only minimally be on the radar of many people in Durango, but what plays out in that troubled economy and society will have a distinct impact on Durango going forward. There is every likelihood that the end game for Greece is default on its massive debts, with in fact that technically already the case as 50% of the private ones were recently forgiven in a 'haircut' to banks and other lenders. While Greece may remain in the European Union, a good chance it cannot remain in the common currency union of the Euro. But its greater significance, for such a relatively small economy, is as bell-weather of what may befall Portugal, Ireland, and the far larger economies of Spain and Italy. With Italy in particular the EU is in serious trouble, and without the financial resources to easily put its economic house in order. To the extent they are toying with the idea of large direct Chinese investment. Also seen that to date Europe's leaders have attempted stalling measures and band-aids, versus hard fundamental realignments necessary.
What any of this speaks of to someone who could care less about Europe is in the many varied ways an unstable Europe in crisis will negatively affect the United States. Outstanding bank loans are only one. Aside from economic, there are also political and national security implications. But the economic are serious enough, and in relation to a US economy which is neither sound or balanced. Many people may not realize just how close the US came in a few days in 2008 to collapsing its own and the collective world financial system. Something which at the end of the day is built upon trust. Much of the prosperity we assume today is ephemeral, and not built upon a sound basis. In short, our collective economic houses are not in order.
The Baby Boom generation is likely to be the first since the 1930s worse off financially than their parents. In a recent Gallup poll 66% of Americans said not having enough money for retirement is their primary concern. Many large union pension funds are underfunded due sharply rising health care costs, and at basis because the membership had to accept the bad bargain of their pension responsibilities being shifted to them, but without sufficient financial provision; these memberships are now facing the reality of higher contributions and less in benefits. If our recent economic downturn has acerbated a growing problem, there are a great many in the middle class who cannot assume the retirement they once did, as their parents enjoy, with the prospect for working longer than anticipated, and retiring on less.
None of that bodes anything good for Durango. Not for its working class who may become more distressed. Or retirement income which may diminish and tend to coalesce among the fewer truly wealthy. Nor tourist income which is dependent at present upon the middle classes, who may well have less disposable income in years to come.
Another kicker is oil. Its vast importance to the modern world economy can seldom be overstated, with the reality a finite resource whose availability has about peaked. This can be seen in a number of ways, not least in the rush to develop energy alternatives such as natural gas, which itself will probably peak in a couple decades. Moreover in the headless rush for any type of energy despite the consequences. The technique of fracking for natural gas a good case in point, and to the extent this damages water supplies and other environmental damage a bad investment down the road. Or just the growing massive use of coal which is in no way good for the planet or us. Unless mankind brightens up soon and seriously develops sustainable alternative energy sources, and learns to live in a similar manner, then the near future is likely to be a rapacious use of our children's legacy left sullied and diminished.
For a good primer on the state of oil refer to the 2006 movie, 'A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash.'
Durango, and Colorado in general, is more susceptible than larger urban areas to higher energy costs. Not only reflected in higher heating costs, but at the core of the local economy. The costs of goods and services will increase as transportation costs rise. The heavy reliance upon tourism is based upon the equilibrium of their desire to visit versus the ability to do so; beyond a certain point something which can be seriously upset should the cost of fuel for auto and air transport rise too high. Something significant for an isolated area, and more usually a destination reached from long distances removed.
The issues touched upon here are not necessarily unique to Durango. But that town more than some others will surely feel any disruption to our national and global economies more keenly. The short history of modern settlement in Colorado, and particularly its mountains, has often been one of relative isolation commensurate with strong and necessary ties to the outside world. Aside from our psychological needs in this regard, by and large we depend heavily upon the broader world for most goods and services used, as well as the market in which to make the income to pay for them.
Maybe in time the Utes will resettle the Durango region, as perhaps the only ones willing or adept enough to live in what is a fairly harsh land sans all help or intervention from outside. For those dismissing such notions out of hand, then the real question of what their existence is based.
Please allow me to quietly point out that it is painful to some of us (to me, anyway) to constantly hear about "your parents' retirement" or "not living better than your parents." It depends on who your parents were/are. Maybe that's because I'm second-generation East Coast and so many people I know are from the same type of background- no grandparents who spoke English, if any grandparents at all. A whole lot of baby boomers are from that immigrant surge (or European refugee after the war) and I do wince when lumped into a whole bunch of people with whom I've never had anything in common.
Machines we can destroy, unless the Supreme Court says machines are people too.
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