Some reasons to be thankful during the holiday season

Happy days have yet to return in earnest to the Grand Valley. Yet, there’s a sense that if conditions aren’t getting substantially better, they’re not getting significantly worse, either. So in joining in an attitude of gratitude for the holiday season, here are a few things for which business owners and managers can remain thankful:

With the important holiday shopping season under way, retailers finally have cause for some optimism. The National Retail Federation projects a 2.3 percent increase in holiday sales nationally this year, up from a meager 0.4 percent increase in 2009 and a 3.9 percent decline in 2008. Locally, retailers expect shoppers to remain cautious, but not necessarily Scrooge-like.

The Grand Valley enjoys an advantage in that it remains a shopping hub, attracting holiday shoppers from around the region.

Speaking of increasing sales, Mesa County has reported increased sales tax collections for two straight months compared to last year. Sales tax collections obviously reflect sales, so the trend is encouraging. Sales tax collections through the first 10 months of 2010 continue to lag nearly 9 percent behind the same span in 2009. But the difference is less than than the double-digit declines the previous two years.

Unemployment continues to hold mostly steady in Mesa County, albeit at an unadjusted rate above 9 percent. The latest estimate pegs the rate for October at 9.1 percent, the same as the revised figure for September. While a seasonal slowdown has begun in some industry sectors, job prospects continue to improve in other sectors, including energy and transportation.

While taxes remain a frequent lament, Colorado actually assesses lower income and property taxes that many other states.

In the latest assessment of how state tax systems affect businesses, Colorado had the 12th lowest corporate income tax rate and 16th lowest individual income tax rate. Colorado ranked 15th for the lowest per capital property tax collections.

The moral of the story is this: The economic glass may not be half full in Mesa County, but it’s hardly empty, either. And an attitude of gratitude goes a long way toward persevering through an economic recovery — if indeed it is a recovery — that remains stubbornly sluggish.