Slowdown may benefit fast-growing region

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — An economic slowdown could have beneficial side effects in western Colorado, providing some breathing room for a region coping with the stresses of rapid energy development.

That’s the view of two speakers who appeared in Glenwood Springs on Friday at the State of the Valley Symposium, presented by the Healthy Mountain Communities nonprofit group.

Ben Alexander, associate director of the Montana-based Headwaters Economics research organization, said a slowdown would help alleviate housing and labor shortages being exacerbated by energy and allow communities to work on diversifying their economies.

Jim Westkott, senior demographer for the Department of Local Affairs, agreed.

“It’s been pretty crazy out here. … This will bring things down to earth and that in the long run is probably a good thing,” he said.

Alexander said the rate of growth “has been, I think, unsustainable.”

Oil and gas development has brought jobs to Garfield and Mesa counties that pay on average some $30,000 more per year than non-energy jobs, Alexander said. But it has become hard for other industries to compete for labor and materials. Workers have shifted from construction to energy jobs, making it more difficult to keep up with the demand for more housing. he said.

He said it’s important for the region not to become too dependent on the energy industry, which is highly volatile.


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