Sign company flashes its optimism

Colorado West Outdoor Advertising has placed hopeful messages about tough economic times on its bus bench and shelter signs across the Grand Valley, until paid advertising takes their place.

It can be a glum world, especially if you’re unemployed, losing your home or just struggling to keep the creditors at bay. But it’s safe to say no one is immune from the effects of the sagging economy.

That’s why some locals are heartened to literally see signs of hope around the Grand Valley. For the past month, signs on some bus-stop benches and bus shelters are rallying folks to stay positive.

One advertisement on a bus bench near the corner of 10th Street and Grand Avenue says, “Recession 101: Interesting fact about recessions .... they end.” The catchy signs with several variations of that same message in red and blue lettering on white backdrops are plastered on benches and shelters from Clifton to Fruita.

General Manager Tim Murray of Colorado West Outdoor Advertising said the signs were purchased by the company and are fillers until paid advertising takes their place. Instead of leaving the spaces blank or plastering in some sort of self-promotion, the company decided to take the opportunity to spread some cheer.

“I’m glad you noticed,” he said when asked about the signs. “We wanted to try and put something positive and uplifting about the economy. We’re going to put the subliminal message across the entire town.”

Murray said he thinks the media tend to focus on gloomy reports of the recession. However, he’s not naive enough to believe recession woes will magically clear up right away.

“News stations always say it’s bad, bad, bad out there,” Murray said. “Why not try to swing it the other way? It can’t hurt. It’s not selling anything. It’s just a message.”

Murray said the signs have yet to lure potential advertisers to request the space. But other news organizations have asked about the messages, he said.

Scott Samples of Orchard Mesa said he noticed the signs as he was riding Grand Valley Transit buses to get around town. His favorite one reads: “Recession 101: Experience and talent are recession-proof assets.”

He said he appreciates the sentiment but, in reality, people still need jobs.

“Experience and talent are nice, but that still doesn’t get you hired,” Samples said.

Admittedly, the numbers don’t look good. The jobless rate stood at 8.9 percent in Mesa County in December. Although that is the highest rate of unemployment in the state, it’s lower than the nation’s jobless rate of 10.2 percent in January.

Mesa County had the biggest job loss, percentage-wise, of any metropolitan area in the country in 2008 compared to 2009. Also, there were at least twice as many foreclosures in Mesa County in 2009 than the previous year.

Samples knows a little bit about the pain associated with a bad economy. He now works at his property-maintenance job four to five hours a day, down from eight to 10 hours a day when times were rosier. Still, he prefers to be optimistic. He said he has noticed that since the recession has worn on, people seem to be pulling together.

At his job, for example, there is not enough work to go around for four people, but the company allows all four to work part-time, so no one is laid off.

“We all need money,” he said. “There’s less bickering and fighting over who gets to do what. You have to be positive. It’s the only way to really be.”

Jerry Bukus, who was walking down North Avenue carrying groceries on a recent day, said he noticed the positive messages on the benches. His favorite one talks about the recession coming to an end.

Bukus said his construction job was a victim of the recession, and he hasn’t worked since November. Bukus said he would ride the bus to get around town, but he can’t afford the $2.50 for a daily pass. He lives in his camper on a friend’s property in town.

Bukus thinks the economy will turn around, “but not anytime soon.”

He said he experienced recessions in the 1980s while living in California and knows they can change.

“I tend to look on the bright side of things,” Bukus said. “Whenever you start looking at the dark side, it doesn’t do you any good.”


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