Optimism out of misery

Last week’s jobs report — federal officials confirmed only 18,000 jobs were created in June — was a gut-punch for all of us. Economists expected much more robust growth. The national unemployment figures increased to a disgusting 9.2 percent.

Locally, unemployment figures are even more sickening. And the misery is bound to continue, as the state, county and local municipalities continue to contract their budgets for next year.

These are bad numbers, especially for those people shut out of the job market. Nevertheless, there are reasons to be optimistic.

There are signals about the state of the local economy we have not seen in years. We think the recovery has finally begun, albeit excruciatingly slow.

Here at The Daily Sentinel, things appear to have cycled. This is important because community newspapers are tied to retail performance in a way that makes them canaries in the coal mine — a leading economic indicator.

More importantly, residential real estate transactions are picking up as foreclosures slow. When all of the foreclosed properties have finally cycled off of banks’ ledgers and into the hands of paying homeowners, the real estate market can resume genuine growth.

We understand that local sales tax receipts are growing, which is an important sign of consumer confidence. And if we could just bump the price of natural gas a few dollars, things might really sizzle around here again.

We know this is little consolation to folks who are still struggling to make ends meet or who can’t find suitable employment.

But it could be far, far worse. The development here in the Grand Valley has been significant. Let’s take account of what this community did in the depths of the worst economy since the 1983 bust and the worst national recession in 80 years:

✔ The downtown redevelopment project is complete, and it’s fantastic.

✔ A sharp new hotel has opened downtown, offering style and amenities in a hotel that did not exist downtown.

✔ Mesa State College, soon to be Colorado Mesa University, continues its astonishing growth as it will soon open another on-campus dorm and break ground on yet another.

✔ St. Mary’s Hospital has completed its Century Project, and is poised to serve our health care needs for many years to come.

✔ The city is finally building its new (and sorely needed) public safety facility.

✔ Continental Airlines now offers direct flights to Houston.

✔ Cabela’s opened. Hobby Lobby moved into its new construction. American Furniture Warehouse is moving to town and will open its new construction this fall. The Fruita Rec Center. Allen’s Unique Autos. Several new locally owned restaurants.

Though woefully incomplete, that’s a remarkable list for the worst economy in three generations.

And the game-changer may end up being one that didn’t even make the list. If the Discovery Channel puts Gateway Canyons Resort in the international spotlight with its Curiosity series coming next month as some expect, who knows the impact? Imagine what this community might accomplish in a healthier economy.


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