Western economy on slow rebound

Though the worst may be over for the Intermountain West, the region remains on a slow road to recovery, according to the Brookings Institute. The nonprofit public policy organization recently found that the Mountain West is rebounding from the Great Recession at the slowest rate in the country. That said, first quarter real estate sales may offer some hope that La Plata County is bucking the trend.

“The deflation of a massive housing bubble, widespread job losses, and the onset of a significant public-sector fiscal crisis have wreaked havoc on many communities,” the report stated.

The institute took a broad look at the region and examined data on employment, unemployment, output, home prices and foreclosure rates in the Intermountain West’s 10 large metropolitan areas and 17 smaller cities.

The Brookings Institute opened its report by noting that the Intermountain West had been almost impervious to national declines over the last 30 years. It cited construction growth as a former “automatic” for the region’s economy. However, it then added that the West’s strengths became its greatest weaknesses during the last two years, and a real estate slump continues to hold the greater economy in check.

“The once unstoppable housing sector now represents one of the heaviest drags on the region’s recovery, dampening the usual rapid snap-back of hiring,” the institute’s report reads.

The region did post strong signs of recovery in production and output sectors. However, job growth continues to lag throughout much of the West, according to the institute.

“The slowness of the job recovery is new for the region: For the first time in at least three decades, the Mountain West’s job recovery is lagging the nation’s,” the authors wrote. Two years after the start of the Great Recession, the Intermountain West possesses 6.1 percent fewer jobs than it had when the recession started.

Though a humble housing market is continuing to haunt the greater Mountain West, local buyers responded during the opening months of 2010. The Durango Area Association of Realtors recently released its first quarter statistics and reported significant increases in prices and volume. Total first quarter residential transactions in La Plata County leapt from 79 to 131, a 66 percent increase over the same time last year. In addition, the median price of homes sold went from $275,600 to $306,100.

City of Durango sales were marked by increased affordability during the first quarter. Eighty-eight percent of homes sold were priced below $400,000, as compared with 72 percent last year. While median prices dropped in town by 14 percent, the number of homes sold increased by more than 88 percent.

Homebuyer’s tax credits helped create some of this first quarter momentum, according to DAAR. A home must be under contract by April 30 and closed by June 30 to take advantage of the $8,000 or $6,500 tax credit.

Community energy push kicks off

An effort to save energy and create jobs in Southwest Colorado kicks off this week. The Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency will work over the next 30 months with partners in La Plata, Archuleta, Dolores, Montezuma and San Juan counties to boost the local economy by increasing energy security.

The grant, totaling $265,000, will fund 30 months of work with local citizens, businesses and government stakeholders. 4CORE will work with partners in Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan counties to help boost the local economy and increase energy security.

A $265,000 grant funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will go toward financing community energy coordinators. These CECs will work with towns, counties, residents and businesses to become more energy efficient and benefit from conservation.

4CORE kick starts its new role with an April 15 workshop presented by Gary Liss on Zero Waste. Liss will provide an understanding of the application of zero waste principles to real world problems with waste and help identify energy efficiency opportunities for Southwest Colorado. The workshop is intended to

inspire participants and the formation of an energy efficiency action plan for Southwest Colorado.

For more information, visit www.fourcore.org.

Wall Arch continues to crumble

A regional landmark is continuing its tumble. Wall Arch, located along the popular Devils Garden Trail in Arches National Park, collapsed sometime in August 2008. No one observed the fall and no visitors were injured. This year, at the end of March, gravity scored another victory, as more rocks fell from what is left of Wall Arch.

The fall offers an opportunity to see geology in motion, according to Park Service officials. All arches are temporary features and will eventually succumb to the forces of gravity and erosion. While the geologic forces that created the arches are still very much under way, in human terms it’s rare to observe such dramatic changes.

Wall Arch was a free-standing arch in the Slickrock member of the Entrada sandstone. The opening beneath the span was 71 feet wide and 33½ feet high, and it ranked 12th in size among the more than 2,000 known arches in Arches National Park.

Moderate runoff forecast for region

A flood-free spring is taking shape in the Four Corners. The National Weather Service recently updated its Spring Flood and Water Resources Outlook, and courtesy high winds and a recent dry spell, spring river flows are expected to be below normal for much of the region.

In spite of the year’s banner winter, flows are expected to be below normal for the San Juan Basin, which includes the Animas River drainage. In addition, snowpack levels have dropped to 92 percent of average in recent weeks.

The agency does emphasize that snow can accumulate well into April. However, NWS climatologists are expecting serious storms to taper off. The center is predicting a “slight chance for above normal temperatures” through June for Southwest Colorado coupled with a 40 percent chance for above normal precipitation.

– Will Sands




In this week's issue...

July 21, 2022
Wildlife success or deal with the devil?

Land swap approved in Southwest Colorado, but not without detractors

July 21, 2022
Tapping out

The latest strategy to save the San Luis Valley's shrinking aquifer: paying farmers not to farm

July 14, 2022
Hey, good environmental news

Despite SCOTUS ruling, San Juan Generating Station plans to shut down