Industries hopeful despite poor economy |

Industries hopeful despite poor economy

John Gardnerjgardner@postindependent.comGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado Colorado State Demographer Jim Westcott told a group of 90 Garfield County residents that the energy industry may never be as robust as it was just one year ago.My guess is that the number of jobs will never return to the amount it was previously, Westcott said.Westcott was the keynote speaker at the Eye on the Economy luncheon presented by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association at the Glenwood Springs Community Center Thursday afternoon.Local businessmen and -women who are keeping an eye on the economy all agreed that the current economic climate in Garfield County is poor.A panel of 12 local industry spokespeople representing the energy industry, construction trades, city government, tourism, banking, insurance, health care, real estate, investments, advertising and education all said that the current economy has impacted each of their industries in one way or another.But as bad as it may be, they all had hope that it will someday improve. However, nobody could speculate on exactly how long that could possibly take.Williams Production spokeswoman Donna Gray told the crowd that the energy company has been in Garfield County since the 1980s, if you were to consider that in 2000 it purchased all of the interests of Barrett Resources, which had been in the county since the mid-80s. She also said that while Williams has cut its drilling rig count from 26 rigs last year to 9 currently, and hacked its expenditures by half to $600 million, the energy company intends to be around for a long time.We use that as an example of our commitment to this area, Gray said. The hope of all of us, when the economy turns around, is that we will be in a good position to pick up and start drilling.EnCana USA spokesman Don McClure said that his company is down nationwide to about 53 percent of operational drilling rigs. He said that EnCana has cut its operations in the Piceance Basin, where it had close to 30 rigs last year, by 73 percent.He indicated that the reason for the significant drop is that the demand for natural gas is driven by the Gross Domestic Product market, and that the industry is directly tied to what goes on with the global economy. However, he was also hopeful that the industry would one day flourish again.It wont be an immediate burst when it comes back, he said. It will take some time to recover.Westcott said that the national economy has never seen a recession as severe as this, and that it could take a very long time for the local economy, not only the national and global economy, to recover. Besides the energy industry, Westcott pointed out real estate and local construction as industries that may take a while to find their way through the mess.He said the overbuilding of housing caused values to drop and led to job losses in construction, which was one of the contributing factors to the whole house of cards falling down.Tammy Sommerfeld with Land Title Guarantee confirmed that the local housing market is struggling.Sommerfeld said that it was not uncommon for Garfield County to have more than 300 transactions in a single month just one year ago. However, since October 2008, each month has been below 100 transactions. She said that the county so far this year has seen a 72 percent drop in transactions when compared to the same time in 2008.The lowering transaction rates dont mean that people arent trying to sell their homes, however. Sommerfeld said that currently there are 1,600 properties on the market in Garfield County.Sommerfeld also provided hope in the housing market by saying that the second quarter is typically the most active time of year.Les Schaub, president of Sunrise Building & Remodeling Inc., said that he has never seen anything like the current state of construction.Schaub said that Pitkin County has had a 90 percent decrease in building permit applications and that Garfield County is down 70 percent, year over year.There is no work going on in residential building today, Schaub said.Contact John Gardner:

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