Local jobs, an editorial lapse and a celebration…all in one column

“Local jobless rate down 2nd straight month,” the weekend headline said.

“Workforce drying up, analyst says,” another headline read exactly a week earlier.

In between were Daily Sentinel stories about jobs and economic conditions in local manufacturing and construction.

Most worrisome is word that Mesa County’s work-force shrank 8.6 percent, about 7,000 workers, since 2009 with workers departing for areas where jobs are more prolific.

Many, if not most, of those workers were in energy and construction, both hard hit when natural gas prices declined. Drilling plummeted as rigs moved elsewhere, chasing more profitable oil plays. Workers naturally followed, migrating to places like eastern Colorado, North Dakota and elsewhere.

I don’t profess to be an expert in economic development. But I did spend some time as a gubernatorial appointee to the Colorado Economic Development Commission and representing Mesa County on the board of the Mesa County Economic Development Council, predecessor to the Grand Junction Economic Partnership.

Then, in the aftermath of Black Sunday, the mantra was diversification, developing a broad economic base that would survive the ups and downs of any one industry. Seems to me we wandered from that philosophy during the most recent boom hereabouts, again doubling down on energy by chasing low-hanging fruit in that sector and allocating significant chunks of impact funds to such things as industry-related programs at Colorado Mesa University.

And now we’re re-learning, one more time, the dangers of having too many eggs in one basket and lamenting the fact our economy, as a result, is slower to recover than other areas. And missing one pretty obvious reason why.

• • •

Anyone else thinking the folks who weigh in on important issues five times a week in the upper left-hand corner of this page, along with one of our county commissioners, suffered a hopefully temporary lapse in judgment last week?

I’m talking about opinions expressed in a Daily Sentinel editorial and by Commissioner Rose Pugliese that perhaps local taxpayers should foot the bill for law enforcement at the county’s two largest music festivals, sparing new corporate owners of Country Jam and Rock Jam that onerous burden.

Let’s see if I, just one taxpaying local fan of live music of the country persuasion, understand this.

For seven or eight days a year, an out-of-state corporation will come in and, in effect, set up what amounts to a city of largely out-of-county residents dwarfing the size of every Mesa County community but Grand Junction, one that needs sanitation, public health, law enforcement and other services. That corporation, the theory goes, should pay for all of those needs except perhaps the most necessary one, public safety.

Even if, after each festival, they pack everything up and move on, taking profits from their $145 general admission passes and $705 VIP Gold passes back home and sticking us locals with the entire tab for keeping order at several days of 24-hour parties.

And what’s this in the editorial about exposing attendees to “our biking culture” and wine country?

I’ve attended and/or volunteered at my share of Country Jams over the years in addition to being on the Board of Commissioners that worked out details for the initial one. I’m still looking for my first spandex-clad bicyclist, tote bag of local vintages in hand, in the crowds.

Kudos to commissioners Steve Acquafresca and John Justman for making Townsquare Media Group, the self-proclaimed third largest owner of radio stations in the United States with 312, do what’s been done for all but two years of Country Jam’s existence and pay at least a portion of law enforcement costs for their events.

• • •

How refreshing to read Henrietta Hay’s column on Sunday, a wonderful perspective on her 100 years.

There’s a saying I’m fond of, the source long since forgotten, that explains three stages of life and learning.

In the first stage, you’re young and know all the answers. Later on, in the second phase, you know all the questions. And in the third and highest stage, you finally figure out which questions are worth answering.

I’d say Henrietta reached that third stage quite a while before her centennial. And before many of the rest of us.

Happy Birthday, Henrietta!

Jim Spehar is painfully familiar with occasional lapses of his own. Your thoughts are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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