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Tourism, Glenwood Springs impacted by downturn as well

John Gardner
jgardner@postindependent.com
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Glenwood Springs City Manager Jeff Hecksel told a crowd of about 90 citizens at the Eye on the Economy luncheon at the Glenwood Springs Community Center Thursday that the city’s sales tax revenue was down 17 percent in February.

And if things continue that way, it will not be a good thing for the city.

“Those are pretty big numbers, and that has a pretty big impact on us,” Hecksel said.



According to Hecksel, the city is impacted in three main areas in regards to sales tax revenues. The first is in regional retail stores that have seen fewer shoppers, second is in the regional services industry, and third is in tourism.

He said that sales tax revenues started to decrease in June 2008, but those were minimal drops of 1 or 2 percent. He said that made budgeting for 2009 very difficult.



“We had a tough time budgeting for the year not knowing what the year would be like,” Hecksel said. “We are optimistic that it will turn around.”

So far, Hecksel said that the city has not had to cut any projects budgeted for 2009 and that it does not plan to, either. However, he did not know for how long the city could hold out if the revenues keep declining.

“Can we do that forever?” Hecksel asked. “No. We need these sales tax [dollars] to come back.”

Keynote speaker and Colorado State Demographer Jim Westcott said that while the local economy may not be in the best shape there was hope in some industries, like tourism, that could see a quick turnaround.

“Here is the good news,” Westcott said. That the attractiveness of the area and the growing population of 50-plus-year-old Front Range residents who will be looking for shorter day trips, close to home, will hopefully sustain the local economy.

Ken Murphy, a panelist representing the tourism industry in Garfield County and owner of Glenwood Canyon Resort, agreed that the numbers may paint a bleak picture right now, but the amenities around Glenwood Springs are resilient, and the city may be better off than other resort communities.

“We’ve got a very strong brand and people are looking to stay closer to home, and they are looking for a value,” Murphy said.

He said that even though accommodations tax revenues are down more than 30 percent for the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same period for 2008, a lot of that could be attributed to the lower number of energy industry workers living in hotels. He added that if you compare Glenwood to neighboring communities, the city is fairing much better.

“We may come out of this better than most,” Murphy said.

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

jgardner@postindependent.com


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