We can assign blame for busts 
or participate in our own rescue

Anyone else getting tired of the whining?

You know, the “poor me” or “woe is us” complaining that too often permeates discussion of Mesa County’s economy and, by extension, that of the Western Slope. Occasionally the chorus is so loud that you’d assume there’s a choir director somewhere arranging the harmonies and creating the score.

I wonder if all the blame and excuses for whatever economic indicator we’re worrying about at any given time points to a larger, more basic problem — the attitude of victimization that so often accompanies these economic discussions.

In recent years, the common denominator seems to be one of forgetfulness. These folks need a reminder, as in: “Get over it — the latest boom is over.” 

There’s a reason they’re called “booms.” They’re artificial highs driven by temporary conditions. Too many of us, it seems, appear to believe those peaks are the new normal. History, if it provides any guidance, shows they’ll be followed by valleys and that the cycle will repeat itself periodically.

Around here, just in my lifetime, we’ve had multiple uranium booms, oil shale booms, natural gas booms and probably some I’ve forgotten. They’ve all pretty much ended in a manner put into context by one of my favorite Western authors.

“We’ve had the beaver trade and the buffalo hunters, the gold and silver and copper mines, the homesteaders, boom times in lumber and petroleum, and each time we’ve ended up busted and looking for another way home,” William Kittredge wrote.

Part of “looking for another way home” in these parts seems to start with assigning blame for our predicament.

I don’t remember where fingers were pointed when the uranium boom turned to bust, ultimately leaving raw dirt where production facilities used to exist in Uravan and downtown Grand Junction and idling southwest Colorado mines. That was way before arguments about the role of today’s favorite ogre, those damned environmentalists.

Exxon was the scapegoat for the oil shale bust of the early 1980s, a fate sealed by the enormity of the impact of Black Sunday, the most egregious symptom of many other issues surrounding competing attempts to extract commercially viable energy from “the rock that burns.”

Since the glory days of 2007, the mantra has been that over-zealous regulators and administrative road blocks are responsible for the end of the natural gas boom, despite substantial evidence that the primary cause of declining drilling activity is lack of incentive due to the downward spiral of gas prices (the result of glut of production) and, recently, more profitable opportunities elsewhere.

There’s much to encourage some PMA (positive mental attitude).

For starters, and with a nod to those still bemoaning the bust of the latest boom, there’s the recent announcement of a substantial uptick in the drilling program of major gas producer WPX Energy.

While our real estate market still has some hills to climb, foreclosures have declined and those properties are no longer such a significant negative influence on the market.

As of December, the local jobless rate was at a four-year low. While the whiners and blamers are quick to assign that to folks no longer actively seeking local work, a realist might expect some of that as a natural outcome of a bust in one economic sector — workers moving to where those sorts of jobs still exist.

And let’s not ignore the report that December saw the highest number of job orders at the Workforce Center since 2007.

Convention bookings are up, as are overall bookings at Two Rivers. The Glacier Ice Arena has re-opened, bringing jobs as well as recreational opportunities. Grand Junction and the surrounding area consistently makes “best of” lists for everything from livability to places for tech startups.

Perhaps, if there’s a path forward out of what remains of our economic downturn, it’s contained in this, said in another setting some time ago by former Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland.

“You have to participate in your own rescue. You can’t wait for a St. Bernard to show up with a keg of brandy. You have to be proactive.”

Perhaps the whiners can think about that while pointing fingers and looking for excuses.

Jim Spehar has owned local businesses, helped govern his hometown and participated in state and local economic development efforts. Your comments are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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