Economy will improve come hell or high water
Come hell or high water.
It’s an expression that dates back more than a century to vividly describe an outcome that’s likely to occur regardless of the destructive obstacles in the way. The phrase remains just as relevant today in portraying what’s happened in Colorado.
Gov. John Hickenlooper didn’t chose those particular words for his latest State of the State Address, but came close in acknowledging the tragedies and touting the accomplishments of the past several years. In the aftermath of wildfires that scorched large swaths of land and consumed homes and then floods that either washed away or inundated entire communities, Colorado survives come hell or high water.
The state of the state is strong, Hickenlooper proclaimed, in large part because of an economic rebound that’s brought jobs and new companies to Colorado, the Front Range in particular. Colorado ranks among the top five states for business, careers and jobs. The number of tourists visiting the state has climbed to record heights. More notable still, Colorado has climbed from 40th to fourth in the state rankings of job growth, the governor notes.
That’s not to mention the enviable fact Colorado also has Peyton Manning and legal marijuana. It hardly seems fair.
Thankfully, the Western Slope has been spared the large scale destruction that’s occurred elsewhere in Colorado. But many residents in the region continue to experience if not economic hell, then economic purgatory.
Monthly unemployment rates have come down, to be sure, but the labor force also has shrunk as people have moved away in search for jobs. Real estate and activity and retail sales also have improved. But there’s a persistent sense the economy remains weak and isn’t expected to return to more robust conditions anytime soon.
The state of the state might be strong, but not so much on the Western Slope.
No doubt Hickenlooper experienced up close and personal the frustrations of area residents when he traveled to Grand Junction to offer an update on his economic development initiative. The questions he faced ranged from blunt to outright hostile.
You can’t blame the governor for a reversal of fortune in which energy development has shifted from Western Colorado to the Front Range as prices remain low for natural gas and far higher for oil. Remember, too, that it wasn’t that long ago that Western Colorado enjoyed comparative prosperity even as the Front Range tanked.
Moreover, Hickenlooper has tried with varying degrees of success to bring small business sensibilities to state governance. He’s taken moderate positions that have confounded members of his own Democratic party.
Nonetheless, Hickenlooper must remain true to what he considers the essential ingredients of economic development: a pro-business culture, continued efforts to attract as well as retain businesses and work force development. He also must maintain a perspective that reaches over the Continental Divide.
Continued hard work, and plenty of it, eventually will lead to economic recovery in Western Colorado.
Come hell or high water.