Sales tax figures grow
Community leaders are expressing elation over a growing economic rebound in Glenwood Springs that’s being fueled in part by the opening of Glenwood Meadows.The city’s November sales tax revenues were up 33 percent over the same month a year earlier, and its lodging tax income was up almost 20 percent.November sales tax revenues reached $998,263, compared to $747,872 in November 2004. The city’s bed tax, which funds tourism promotion, generated $30,298 in November, up from $25,284 the same month a year earlier.”Wow!” said Marianne Virgili, president of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, about November’s results.Some level of increase was expected due to Glenwood Meadows, the 400,000-square-foot commercial development. Its first business, Target, opened in early October, and several other openings have followed, giving a much-needed boost to the city’s sales tax base.”I think it’s exceeded expectations from what I can tell and we’ll just have to hope it continues,” Virgili said.Mayor Bruce Christensen said he was surprised at the size of the November figures.”I hope that it shows that we’ve had a turnaround and our whole community is moving forward,” he said.The city began showing signs of a solid upturn in sales tax revenues even before Glenwood Meadows’ opening, with an 11.5 percent increase in September over September 2004. October’s revenues, which include Target’s sales tax proceeds, were up 14 percent over October 2004.”This is the first time that we’ve had a few months that were ahead of 2001, which is kind of nice,” Christensen said.The city’s sales tax revenues had dropped each year since 2001, thanks to setbacks that included Sept. 11 and the national recession, Glenwood’s Coal Seam Fire in 2002, and increasing competition that includes a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Rifle. However, 2005 sales tax revenues are up a total of almost 9 percent over the first 11 months of 2004, and at the current pace total revenues for 2005 should easily exceed 2001, when $10.7 million in revenues was generated.With the cost of providing city services having increased since 2001, the sales tax growth is sorely needed.”The last two years that I’ve been on (City) Council have been pretty challenging in just trying to be responsible and maintain stability” financially, Christensen said.He said he’s now hoping the city can catch up on some things and begin to move forward on others.For all the good news, Virgili said she’s heard concern from some downtown businesses about how they are faring. She said downtown will be a focus of a chamber retreat next month.”Downtown continues to be of interest to the chamber. It’s the heart of the community,” she said.Debate continues on whether Glenwood Meadows will hurt downtown by competing with it, or help it by bringing more shoppers to town. Council last week approved going ahead with an Eighth Street extension aimed at making it easier to get between Glenwood Meadows and downtown.Virgili said there also needs to be an emphasis on filling vacancies downtown. She has been talking to store owners in nearby communities, hoping to persuade them to open locations in downtown Glenwood Springs.She said downtown has a lot of professional offices that help nearby restaurants during the day. But these days, healthy downtowns also need to be entertainment centers with theaters, unique shops and other offerings, she said.”I think if our downtown is going to be successful that’s what it’s got to be,” she said.Downtown also is crucial to the city’s tourism future, Virgili believes.”We certainly have the tourists but they want a certain shopping experience and so that’s what we’re going to have to provide.”Glenwood’s tourism economy has shown no signs of suffering this year. Lodging tax revenues were up 17 percent in October over October 2004. The city also posted several other double-digit increases earlier in the year. Total 2005 lodging tax revenues are $536,134, well above last year’s total of $516,964, and the 2005 figure doesn’t even include December’s revenues.”I feel that Glenwood Springs is really taking off as a first-class resort. We have gotten so much buzz,” Virgili said.The growth in the number of cable television channels has helped the community, she said. They’re all looking for cities to feature, and Glenwood is attractive to them. By way of example, CNN plans to visit the Hot Springs Pool in Glenwood Springs Jan. 12-14 to do a program on the health benefits of mineral hot springs.”We get calls like that all the time from cable TV,” said Virgili. The chamber also is home to the Glenwood Springs Film Commission.Besides the pool, Glenwood Caverns has become a major draw for the city since it became a year-round attraction, Virgili said. In recent years it has added tramway access, a mountaintop restaurant and several adventure rides.Virgili said the Western Slope’s growing population also is helping the city’s tourism economy. More people are coming from Grand Junction for recreation, and Garfield County is attracting baby boomers who buy second homes and visit Glenwood Springs, she said.Meanwhile, as Glenwood enjoys the revenue benefits of Glenwood Meadows’ opening, the city of Rifle is still waiting to see what negative impact it might have on Rifle’s economy, the way the Wal-Mart’s 2003 opening there did on Glenwood’s.Rifle finance director Nancy Black said November sales tax figures aren’t yet available, but the city “certainly wasn’t impacted in October.”The city’s sales and use tax revenues that month totaled $391,000, up from $351,000 in October 2004. Its general retail category, which Black thinks may be most affected by Glenwood Meadows, was up 11 percent.Year to date, Rifle’s sales tax revenues are at $3.8 million, up from $3 million over the same period in 2004.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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