It is not all about money - well, yes, it is - and for the benefit of all, Southwest Coloradans are going to have to circulate as much money as they can to keep the economy moving in this corner of the state.
Largely unaffected by the sub-prime mortgage crisis - Southwest Colorado has little of the housing and few of the marginally paying jobs that came together to leave so many homes vacant - but unable to avoid the international economic falloff, locals are being affected by the slowdown in real estate sales and construction. Sharply lower gas prices and now plenty of snow are positive factors, but visitors are fewer in number and apparently staying for shorter periods.
And while we suspect there are still plenty of people who would like to move to Southwest Colorado, they have to sell their existing house first. That is where the problem lies.
In local construction, the one bright spot is Fort Lewis College. There, a dorm building is well along, with a new and a larger classroom wing for biology is under way. Additional square footage for an expanded student union building will break ground this spring, to be followed by a remodel of the existing union space. Downtown, the steel is up for the transit center on Camino de Rio.
An improved Florida Road will be very welcome, and that revenue stream is in hand. Planning for the combined hotel and convention center, led by the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad's ownership, will continue. That is a worthwhile project.
The Southern Ute Tribe's just-opened hotel, meeting rooms and casino in Ignacio are attractive and attracting a lot of attention. Durango Mountain Resort has completed a lot of new square footage so that the ski area has more to offer.
Look for home remodeling, and additions, rather than much new residential construction. Some small amount of infill in older Durango is possible, but otherwise residential demand is just not there.
Twin Buttes, in the early planning states along U.S. Highway 160, could mark for some time Durango's western boundary limit. Three Springs, where there are plenty of residential lots and a fledgling commercial strip, should mark the eastern edge.
Potable water as part of the Animas-La Plata Project is in the works and will lead to some development on the Dry Side, but that is a likely a few years away.
The Durango City Council election in April, with Renee Parsons', Doug Lyon's and Scott Graham's seats in contention, may for the first time in recent years not pivot on issues of growth.
With the economy stressed, expect charitable giving to the county's many nonprofits to be reduced. If cash is short, donors' time and expertise could take its place. La Plata County residents can be generous in many ways.
While the county continues to be very fortunate to have the tax revenue, royalties and jobs that come from the coal-bed methane gas industry, government, nonprofit and business budgets will be on everyone's mind. Shopping locally when possible is more important than ever.
In the midst of the national recession, La Plata County nevertheless has a lot to offer. There is nothing wrong with Durango's downtown, nor Bodo Industrial Park nor the communities of Bayfield and Ignacio.
Southwest Colorado, and particularly La Plata County, in 2009 will be continue to be appealing places to live, work and play.