Hot start to summer ignites Glenwood Springs’ sales economy
Glenwood Springs has endured a scorching summer, temperature wise, and the city has also enjoyed a hot season financially speaking.
A primary thermostat for the community’s economic performance, June’s sales tax numbers, by and large, sizzled across the board.
In fact, out of Glenwood’s 15 retail categories ranging from miscellaneous retail to marijuana, only three took a dip.
“My perception is that we’ve had a few slow days but it is amazing how many new people we entertain every single day,” High Country Gems & Minerals Owner Patti “Rock Star” Maestas said. “It is astounding how many new people come in here, and they have a good experience and then they go out and bring people back, and things happen.”
During the month of June alone, Glenwood collected $1,824,148 in sales tax, which equates to a 5.14 percent increase, or $89,147 more than what was collected in June of 2017.
And, through half of 2018, the city has collected nearly $8.5 million in sales taxes, reflecting nearly $229 million in total retail sales for the year. With tax collections up 2.8 percent for the year to date through June, Glenwood Springs is also on track to rebound from the impacts of last year’s Grand Avenue Bridge construction, which caused a huge decline in retail sales during August, September and October, in particular.
For the June report, the city’s most lucrative sectors – general merchandise stores, building materials and supplies, eating and drinking places as well as motels and hotels – all experienced an increase in the amount of sales tax dollars their industries generated for Glenwood.
“The first thing I noticed was that nearly every business category was up from last year. Overall results are about what we expected, up a little more than 5 percent,” Glenwood Springs Chief Operating Officer Steve Boyd said.
“Once again, a particular bright spot comes from our accommodations segment,” he said. “Hotel and motel receipts are up about 7 percent from June last year and around 6.5 percent year to date.”
Glenwood’s motels and hotels, alone, earned $225,651 in sales tax for the city in June; a dollar amount $15,783 higher than last year’s June report. The separate accommodations tax, which goes to fund the city’s tourism promotion program, collected another $137,809 for the month, representing a nearly 6.9 percent increase over June 2017.
One category that did not look too hot or high: marijuana.
Although not a major sales tax producer, after experiencing a 12.92 percent decrease when measured against June of last year, the marijuana industry’s growth in Glenwood has been lagging.
“Collections from marijuana sales were down again … as they have been all year,” Boyd said, adding that it’s likely a result of “competitors opening down-valley.”
In fact, in June of 2014, the marijuana business in Glenwood Springs produced $18,965 worth of sales tax dollars. Since then, however, the marijuana market for Glenwood has remained fairly stagnant. In June of 2018, the industry produced only $956 more in sales tax dollars than was collected in June of 2014.
“This isn’t the marijuana vacation that people used to think about whenever they’d say let’s go there, smoke pot and have a pot vacation,” Martin’s Natural Medicinals Manager Jared Hippensteel said.
“There are more places to get it done, so it’s less special,” Hippensteel said. “Glenwood Springs would be smart in not passing local tax hikes above Eagle and different counties around where people will, literally, go to the other county to buy cheaper weed.”
While marijuana took the biggest hit, Glenwood Springs’ other sectors more than made up for it.
Boyd also sounded optimistic about Glenwood’s economic forecast through the remainder of the year, too.
“We are up 2.8 percent from last year through the first half of 2018, and I don’t see any reason to think that we won’t continue to see moderate, consistent growth going forward,” Boyd said.