Our View: Looking ahead to 2013

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Editorial Board, August through January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Shannon Lukens, community representative
  • Scott Ford, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

If 2007 represented the height of the economic bubble here and across the nation, and if 2010 was the lowpoint, then 2012 was when stability seemed to return to Routt County’s economy. Here’s to 2013 being the year when sustained economic growth puts our communities back on track for long-term prosperity.

If the economic mire of the past five years has taught us anything, it’s this: Focus on the things that can be controlled at the local level, and never lose sight of the fact that making Steamboat Springs and Routt County a great place to live will have as significant an impact on our economy as anything else.

But before we look ahead to the coming 12 months, it’s worth a short review of the positive economic indicators from the preceding 12 months. Sales tax revenues in the city of Steamboat steadily have outpaced 2011 revenues, and although the percent increase is similar to the rate of inflation, it nonetheless represents stability — if not growing confidence — in people’s willingness to spend money in stores and restaurants.

The local real estate market has continued to rebound from the significant crash of the past few years. There are fewer distressed properties on the market, and the number of foreclosure starts, though still high, will finish lower than 2011. Median housing prices also stabilized, and in some cases increased, in 2012.

Local schools, which are perhaps as good an indicator as there is of the health of a community, continue to rank among the best in the state. The Steamboat Springs School District is one of the only districts in the state to have earned the “accredited with distinction” honor from the state in each of the three years the rating system has been in place, and the Steamboat Springs Middle School this year was recognized as a John Irwin School of Excellence for the sixth straight year. Colorado Mountain College, buoyed by a beautiful new building that anchors its Steamboat campus, now is offering four-year degrees in a couple of areas and boasts a facility that can help erase the “See Me Ski” perception still held by some.

During the past year we’ve emphasized the need to improve transportation and technology infrastructure, not only for improved quality of life for those of us already here, but as a means of attracting new residents and businesses. The recent launch of 4G LTE service on Verizon Wireless and AT&T networks is a significant step in the right direction. And while time will tell the long-term availability of affordable airplane seats into Yampa Valley Regional Airport, it was important that the community passed a 0.25 percent sales tax that took effect in 2012 to help keep more incoming seats arriving at YVRA each winter.

Accessibility to quality health care is key to a vibrant community, and Routt County long has benefited from the presence of Yampa Valley Medical Center and its extended medical campus. Now, with construction of the Casey’s Pond Senior Living community well under way, Steamboat Springs can look forward to a top-notch independent and assisted living facility for elder care.

With so many good things happening in our community, it’s as important as ever that our leaders, elected and otherwise, continue to stay the course that has set us on this path forward. The responsible expenditure of taxpayer money remains key to our economic health. And to that end, we need our leaders to continue to focus not only on the things that make our communities great, but on the things that are needed to make our communities better. Doing so improves the lives of existing residents and businesses while also paving the path for future economic growth.

Comments

mark hartless 1 year, 3 months ago

$4,000-$8,000 per month is not "uber-rich". I'm not sure it's "rich" at all, and it sure as heck isn't "rich" in Steamboat Springs.

How do you leave Steamboat with a million dollars in your pocket?... Come here with TWO Million!

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Scott Ford 1 year, 3 months ago

One of the questions that is not often asked is, "How should economic success in Steamboat Springs be measured?" Is it the number of jobs? Is it City sales tax collections, Is it lodging occupancy? Is it household income? Is it _?

What do we want our local economy to accomplish?

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rhys jones 1 year, 3 months ago

Mark -- I beg to differ; $4000/mo IS rich, to the people who carry this town: The waiters and waitresses, dishwashers, housekeepers, front desk clerks, lift operators, store clerks, stockers, shuttle drivers -- need I go on?

I had $17 in my pocket, when I rolled in, 27 years ago, and I still hope to leave with a million. My software ROCKS.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 3 months ago

Scott F,

The simplest measurement of economic success is that it is not economic failure. I think SB is so far into the economic success range that there is no question of whether SB is an economic success.

  • Are lots vacant because the owner is waiting for greater profits or because no one has found a profitable use? In SB, vacant land is still valuable and what is vacant is because the owner is waiting for a higher price.

  • Is there enough tax revenues that government can provide essential services? In SB there is so muchf tax revenues that city government that city is willing to consider things like selling property without listing it and instead to sell it for a million dollars less than appraised value.

  • Are the tax rates low enough that businesses are locating in the city or high enough that businesses prefer to be located outside of the city? City doesn't have a property tax and places like Hayden or Oak Creek are notable for all the service businesses located there that have their primary business activity in SB.

  • Do residents get their income from jobs or are a high percentage of residents receiving government aid for income? I don't know this number, but it is far more from private sector income than other places.

Thus, it is hard to suggest that SB is not clearly an economic success. The trickier question is whether SB will continue to enjoy economic success? Or is SB relying upon economic activity that is comparatively declining and failing to attract what will be bigger in the future?

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mark hartless 1 year, 3 months ago

Rhys,

Bill Gates has "awesome software" and I'd be willing to bet he dosen't think $4,000/ month is "rich", much less "uber-rich". I suspect that if your software was "awesome" and you were doing a good job marketing it (instead of skiing perhaps) then you wouldn't think $4,000 was a lot of money either.

I further do not think that the waiters, drivers and lift operators "carry this town" or are indespensible. Proof of that is easily found in the fact that new ones come and go every day, every season, but their wages don't rise very much. I can "buy" a replacement waiter, driver, or lift operator tomorrow for the exact same price as the one that quit yesterday.

Tom,

I am dismayed but not surprised by your statement. So many folks like yourself give lipservice to freedom, capitalism, small business, etc, but they don't really understand or really care about true freedom. They only care about the freedom that interests them; the freedom that costs them money is their enemy, as you have demonstrated here.

You see, freedom is being free to set your price for your townhomes (or your gasoline or lift tickets or whatever) at whatever price you want. Freedom is building your own townhome if you think the other guy is "gettin rich" building townhomes. It is competing with those who you think are "gettin rich" rather than bitching about their industriousness.

The same freedom that entitles you to a gun entitles the developer of Caseys Pond to charge whatever price he damned-well wants to charge.

When the very people who claim to carry the mantle of freedom can't stay on their side of the yellow line we have a problem.

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rhys jones 1 year, 3 months ago

Mark -- Not everybody was born with a silver spoon in their mouth, such as yourself. Nor do they think they're all God's Gift to Freedom and the American Way. I can't afford to ski, nor any marketing beyond Google, not having any sponsors or partners, and no silver spoon either. All I can do is make my software better, more efficient and comprehensive. Thank you for the business advice, you who is so full of business acumen. I can fix your tractor -- can you help me with my programs? I think not.

Anybody who thinks it's not the service people who carry this town fools only themselves. The business owners here milk the annual influx of recent graduates, paying the least amount possible, confident that a new crowd will arrive next season, because the last crowd moved on, realizing there is no real life to be had in this town, at least not for them. They don't have silver spoons either, otherwise they might stick around.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 3 months ago

Mark,

Wonderful well argued post.

Service employees are dispensable in SB by the simple fact that new ones of similar skills come to replace the ones that leave. During the peak of the boom it was arguable that businesses were stuck hiring and keeping those that would normally be fired, but over the past few years, companies have been able to hire qualified workers to replace those that leave.

If Casey's Pond is to be occupied by private citizens paying via private funds then it is a private enterprise that operates based upon the free market. If they plan on receiving Medicare for many residents and plan on making money based upon Medicare's ridiculous lack of cost management then the net result is that the taxpayer pays for overpriced services.

There are reasons why European countries can have socialized medicine and pay about half as much per person per year and have, on average, better outcomes. Simplest reason is that they look to control costs. I was just reading how medical centers in the US are spending $200M to build particle accelerators so they can use proton beams to treat prostrate cancer. While there are no studies showing the proton beams work any better, Medicare will pay $50K for a proton beam treatment compared to $18K for previous methods. So now the game is to build these devices and direct all of a region's prostrate patients to the medical center so they can make money. It is fricking insane. Or how Questcor took a $40 per vial drug and increased the charges to $28,000 per vial and is spending money promoting the drug for MS and anything else they can think of. And Medicare and most private insurers have been paying it.

To me among the dumbest moves made by the Republican party was to demonize "death panels" instead of insisting upon them for Medicare and other forms of government paid or subsidized healthcare. So-called death panels simply look at the effectiveness of a treatment compared to the cost and say there is enough money to pay for this level of service. So then a $28,000 per vial drug has to be the only effective option for some particular severe condition.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 3 months ago

Rhys,

So why are you in SB? Costs to run your business would seem to be lower in other places. Doesn't appear to make any business sense for you to be here.

As for the college grads that come here to work for a few years, they are not operating under false hopes of this being the place they will have a successful career and retire. They are typically here because they want to live in a resort town and enjoy a resort lifestyle before life makes it too difficult. Maybe they can find a way to make it work so they can stay longer, but generally they don't expect to be here 10 or 20 years.

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rhys jones 1 year, 3 months ago

Scott --

I know most ski bums are seasonal, and they have no realistic expectations of making a full-time life here. Generally they have other plans going in, including furthering their education or a real career somewhere else. Their season here is all it was ever meant to be. Their plan is affirmed by the dirt wages they receive once here.

In my own case, I could have pursued the TV career that brought me here, at the end of my first season; I had an offer from a GM at a station I interned at in Pueblo, now in Wichita, to be a news photog there for $7 an hour. I didn't want to leave, especially for $7/hr, it's that simple. That was the summer they cut Valley View, and I worked for Dopplmeyr on the Silver Bullet, then Help Unlimited. The next fall I heard about a possible computer job, a skill I already had, which I ensured with the assistance of The Emergency Veterans' Job Training Act of 1983. I worked the next seven years at that position, well aware that I was quite fortunate to have a real job in a ski town. When that job evaporated (moved out of state) I had the idea for my current venture. Back then I thought I could have my software developed in about three weeks. That was 1992. I didn't get the first viable version on the Internet until 2008, five rewrites later. Best-laid plans, right? And that, as they say, is the rest of the story.

My overhead is extremely low: No office, no payroll, no inventory, no vehicle, whatever second-hand computer I could scrounge (I finally got this, my only new computer ever, two years ago) and a nominal GoDaddy hosting fee. Those costs are static, would be incurred anywhere, and in fact my luck procuring used computers has been quite good here. I don't pay for software either, totally open-source (Windows sucks). With the assistance of an understanding landlord and rustic digs, my rent is quite reasonable too, So I plod along, ever improving my code, hoping to make a splash, so the big boys will buy me out for seven figures or more.

Mark did highlight a shortcoming of mine -- marketing. My latest customer last summer, in Alberta, said he didn't know HOW he stumbled into me (Google I'm sure). The trade rag is prohibitive for advertising rates, I can't afford to travel to the trade shows, and no other advertising would be cost-effective, for my niche product.

So if there are any Angels out there who want to invest in a winner, just click my name, and let's talk. Thanks for your concern, Scott, but my overhead couldn't be much lower.

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mark hartless 1 year, 3 months ago

A few people are good at making money; like the developer of Caseys Pond... or Bill Gates. The vast majority, however, are good at making excuses. Makes them feel vindicated but it never fills their pockets.

I am not rich, "financially lucky" (whatever the hell that means), nor was I born with a silver spoon (I have explained my up-bringing to you a couple times already, Rhys).

If your software is good push it with all your might, it may be your ticket to real wealth. I wish you well with that. If your parents need care, seek the best you can afford, perhaps in another location,. Good luck with that.

$4,000 is a lot of money TO ME too, but I will repeat: $4,000/ month IS NOT "rich". The developer of Caseys Pond should be applauded, not condemned for making profit, and those who aspire to spin lift chairs and wait tables are doing respectable work, but they DO NOT "carry this town".

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 3 months ago

Well, as of now we don't know if the developer of Casey's Pond will make money. They need to get a certain number of units occupied to make money. They have some direct competition with the Haven in Hayden.

There is also indirect competition because at those rates it is possible to rent a nice first floor condo and have contracted assistance. With all the local companies providing services to visitors then there might be some willing to providing year round service to someone at a fair price.

And the world as I know it has ended because I find myself agreeing with two of Mark's posts in a week.

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Melanie Turek 1 year, 3 months ago

Scott, your last comment made me laugh... I am in the same mysterious boat! Maybe the Mayans were right :-)

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rhys jones 1 year, 3 months ago

What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes... The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

Damn, the Democrats must have won another one.

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