Despite some optimism on the job front in La Plata County, local experts say 2012 growth prospects remain dismal for a few key industries.
The credit and construction industries are likely to continue feeling the recessions squeeze this year, said Robert Sonora, economics professor and director of the Office of Economic Analysis and Business Research at Fort Lewis College.
Ongoing legislative reform efforts are expected to keep credit markets tight this year, Sonora said. And even if the markets relax, he said, so many people saw their credit scores wrecked by the recession that they wouldnt have access to credit-based purchasing power anyway.
I just dont see that level of spending coming back, Sonora said.
And the Colorado Legislative Council reports La Plata Countys construction industry remains in the tank.
Residential and commercial construction activity in the region fell in 2011 after some growth in 2010, the council reported. In fact, building permits show nonresidential construction in La Plata County now has come to a near standstill, the council report said.
Sonora speculated the short-term 2010 uptick could have been the result of pent-up demand relieving itself after the previous years of economic drag.
Some observers, including Jack Llewellyn, director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, say the currently frozen construction industry is a situation local leaders have the power to rectify, though.
Llewellyn said he believes a construction industry rebound will be hard to achieve until city and county officials improve local land-use and development processes and regulations.
There is demand for more workforce housing in the county, Llewellyn said. And local developers would jump to meet the need if local permitting processes were faster and offered more clarity.
The forecasts show theres an opportunity to jump-start construction in this community, Llewellyn said. But time is money for that industry, so we need to find ways to make development processes work quicker here.