Former state demographer sees changes in store for Vail, Aspen | SteamboatToday.com

Former state demographer sees changes in store for Vail, Aspen

Randy Wyrick/The Vail Daily

— A former senior state demographer says there are fewer rich people, and those remaining could be more determined to hang on to their money.

That could change the way things work in places like Vail, Aspen and other resort areas, Jim Westkott said.

Westkott said some of those considered wealthy four years ago lost money that they're not likely to recover in the near future. He said building large, expensive second homes will decline because there are simply not as many people who can afford them, or are willing to buy them.

What it means

Colorado's current state demographer, Elizabeth Garner, said it's no mystery that even with the recession bottoming out, fewer dollars are changing hands.

The mystery is what that might mean for Vail and Aspen's future.

"The recession changes everything. We change our forecast every year. The near term question is whether you return to your previous growth pattern," Garner said.

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According to 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data, Eagle County's population is 56,000.

The demographer's office had projected growth based on data gathered from 2006 to 2009. Now, Eagle County is projected to grow to 103,000 people by 2040.

That's revised downward from initial projections a couple of years ago, Garner said.

Household income fell all across Colorado during the recession, but nowhere as far as Pitkin County, where it plunged by $12,000, Garner said.

Eagle County is experiencing the same trend but not to Pitkin County's degree, Garner said.

Garner said the Pitkin County area and Roaring Fork Valley is becoming more economically diverse as areas outside Aspen, like Basalt and El Jebel, become more economically independent and depend less on Aspen.

El Jebel and Basalt are in Eagle County.

"Median household income also could fall if their very wealthy left or if they lost their money," Garner said.

Then again, recession is a matter of perspective, she said.

"There's a group of the wealthy for whom it was not that big of a deal," Garner said.

Interesting times

The next 10 to 15 years will be interesting for the entire state, Garner said.

Baby boomers, now 45 to 65, will retire during the next 20 years, Garner said.

"Who's going to take those jobs? And who's going to take care of their needs?" Garner said. "Will they retire here? Will they move somewhere else? There's such uncertainty."

People between the ages of 45 and 55 are most likely to buy second homes, according to the economic analysis firm Lloyd Levy Consulting.

Baby boomers are aging out of that demographic, with smaller numbers of people behind them, according to the 2010 census.

2nd homes drive local economies

According to Lloyd Levy Consulting, which studied the issues for Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, 45.1 percent of jobs in Eagle County — 15,133 jobs — were generated by second homes, combining construction and owner spending.

That was 41 percent in Pitkin County.

In both counties, 20 percent of jobs were generated by winter tourism, the study found.

"That was the case in 2004 when this study was done, but obviously things have changed significantly," said Rachel Lunney, a researcher with the council.

Almost half of the homes in Eagle County are second homes (49 percent), owned by nonlocals, according to a 2004 study by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. In Pitkin County, the figure is 55 percent, 63 percent in Grand County and 67 percent in Summit County.

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