House District 55: Republican incumbent says influence felt at Capitol
Business is bad for Rep. Ray Scott.
Like many in the state and nation, the Grand Junction Republican hasn’t gotten a real sense that the economy is improving, at least, if his own business interests are a good measurement.
Economic activity for several of the freshman legislator’s businesses, some of which are tied to the construction industry, are down by as much as 40 percent since the recession began in 2008, he said.
Is that because of the economy, or Scott himself? Even he doesn’t know.
“You question your own self when things don’t work,” Scott said of several businesses he operates in the Grand Valley and elsewhere. “One thing about this area that drives us all crazy is you have to change your business model about every 10 years based on the economy. We’ve had this up and down rotation. It’s like the cat on the screen. You just hang on.”
When the business of storing items for others at his warehouse at 2522 U.S. Highway 6&50 fell off a couple of years ago, Scott converted it into the Skyline Sports Center, an indoor soccer and lacrosse field that also includes batting cages and other sports-related activities.
Now, it’s home to the Colorado West Select Soccer Club.
Scott also operates a custom home-building company, Coolwater Homes, which hasn’t seen much business in recent years because of the downturn in the construction industry.
But don’t feel too sorry for the Republican legislator who’s seeking his second term in the Colorado House this fall.
In addition to making an annual salary of $30,000 and per diem pay that can be as high as $18,000, his other company, Gas Products Corp., is doing just fine. Though he started that company in Grand Junction, business here has been slow. But when he opened a Denver office, and moved his son-in-law, TJ Hines, there to run it, business improved.
The business, which sells high-end gas fireplaces and outdoor stoves for luxury homes and office buildings, is doing very well partly because the Front Range is seeing more construction activity, Scott said.
“The business is doing fine over there because the upper-end markets are going very good,” he said. “We have a definite division between those who have and those who have not, and that gap has gotten greater in the last two years.”
Scott said that has taught him a lesson he sort of already knew, that small business really is the motor that drives the state’s economic engine.
Though Dan Robinson, Scott’s Democratic opponent in newly drawn House District 55, has criticized the incumbent as doing little to help his district, Scott said his approach as a lawmaker has been much like his approach to business: focus on the bigger picture.
One of the first bills he introduced into the Colorado House in the 2011 session was a sweeping measure to reverse some of the changes that a Democratic-controlled Legislature made to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the panel that regulates drilling in the state.
But Scott’s plan to restore the industry’s dominance on the panel didn’t go over well, including among several members of his own party.
The bill died a quick death.
Later, Scott criticized Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, for not doing enough to help drilling on the Western Slope.
At the start of this year’s session, Scott was called into the principal’s office, as it were, and had a private meeting with the governor.
Though Scott admits that conversation consisted almost entirely of the governor scolding and reminding him that drilling activity actually is up statewide, the representative was unapologetic. He got his message across.
“A lot of things that you do have impacts further down the road,” Scott said. “I’ve been told by staff members of the administration in Denver that what we did do did have an impact (on new commission appointments). Were they appointments that I would have made? Probably not. But they were better than we had before.”
The freshman lawmaker said he plans to continue that tack if voters see fit to return him to the Legislature in next month’s elections.
Scott, 56, was born in Ohio, but grew up in Rifle, graduating from Rifle High School in 1974.
He worked numerous jobs before starting his own businesses, some of which were in the oil and gas industry.
Scott served on the board of directors of the National Propane Gas Association for two years and was appointed vice president of the Colorado Propane Gas Association in 1985.
In 1990, he was elected president of the Rocky Mountain Gas Association.