$1 billion better?

The report that Colorado’s revenue forecast has improved by $1 billion over last year is certainly welcome. It is a sign that the economy, particularly on the Front Range, is moving into high gear once more.

Over on this side of the Continental Divide, not so much.

That is not to try to paint a picture of doom and gloom for the Western Slope. There are definitely signs that economic recovery is under way here, as well. But it’s not doing so in such impressive fashion as on the other side of the mountains.

The unemployment rate has been dropping here, although it is still well above the statewide average of 6.8 percent. And building permits are on the rise. Also, natural gas prices have remained near $4 per million BTU, well above what they were a couple of years ago, prompting announcements by some oil and gas companies that they plan to expand their operations in this region this year.

Despite the good news, there is anxiety about the economy, even along the Interstate 25 corridor.

Natalie Mullis, chief economist for the Colorado Legislative Council, described the statewide economy as “fragile” last week when she announced there would be $1 billion more revenue for the state this year, compared to last. And, she said, Colorado’s economy is “still deeply dependent on a very large money supply expansion from the Federal Reserve.”

So, apparently, are many others, including worried stock investors, who sparked a sell-off in the major markets Thursday, shortly after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced he plans to tighten up the money supply and increase interest rates later this year.

News that the Chinese economy isn’t growing as rapidly as many people had anticipated also spooked investors last week. But by the close of the day Friday, the markets had rebounded a bit.

People in this corner of Colorado can’t do much about what occurs in China or the actions of the Federal Reserve Bank. But we can continue to search for ways to strengthen and diversify our economy.

One way is to continue to push for actions that will strengthen the natural gas industry, such as lobbying for use of more compressed natural gas in large fleets of vehicles and supporting export facilities for liquified natural gas.

Additionally, we need to look for other industries that can help boost this area’s economy. As a column on the facing page notes, the aerospace industry is among the fastest-growing in Colorado and one of the reasons the state’s economy is doing as well as it is. Although the Western Slope has some notable involvement in the industry, including the recent announcement of significant expansion plans for West Star Aviation, efforts under way by a variety of groups to expand the industry’s presence here are necessary.

Finally, a local attitude that embraces a vibrant community with cultural and educational opportunities leads to a robust business climate. And there was good news from the City Council on that front last week.


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