Guest Column: Grabbing an opportunity for Rifle |

Guest Column: Grabbing an opportunity for Rifle

Editor’s note: This column represents a portion of prepared comments made by Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Frank Ladd at the Thursday, Feb. 6, State of the Community luncheon. The numbers cited were the result of polling for a Neilson/Claritas site report.

These are tough times for Rifle and the surrounding area. Businesses have closed or moved. The main industry, energy, seems to be moving on to less regulated areas. We’re in a bit of a dip economically right now, plain and simple.

The good news: We’ve been through this before and always come out on the other side leaner and smarter. The bad news: Our state and federal legislators seem to be doing exactly the opposite of what should be done for small businesses during a down economy.

Luckily, we have some very smart, hardworking local officials, committees, groups, staff and volunteers to help push Rifle through once again. So, let’s talk opportunities. Where are the opportunities for Rifle? Let’s look at retail.

Expenditures that exceed sales in a given area represent the number of dollars spent by local households outside that area. This includes mail order, online and purchases made in another area. This is known as an “opportunity gap.” Sales that exceed expenditures represent the amount spent by consumers coming into the area to shop. This is known as a surplus.

In the case of Garfield County, total sales exceeded expenditures by nearly 55 percent in 2013, which equates to a surplus of over $970 million spent by non-residents.

Nearly 57 percent of dollars spent in Rifle last year were from non-residents, at nearly $165 million. The consumer demand (expenditures) for Rifle in 2013 totaled nearly $121 million, while the retail sales or supplies sold equaled more than $285 million, resulting in a surplus of almost $165 million.

Pretty good, right? Well, that percentage is about even with Garfield County and way ahead of Carbondale, but is nearly 26 percent less than Glenwood Springs, which accounts for 47 percent of the county’s retail sales. Rifle was less than 16 percent.

If we want Rifle to be the regional hub, we need to turn these numbers around. How do we do that? Let’s look at the retail areas that are showing an opportunity gap, not only for the county, but also for Rifle.

Let’s look at the top five merchandise lines with the largest gaps: Women’s, juniors and misses wear; children’s wear; drugs, health and beauty aids; books; toy, hobby goods and games. Ranging from $11.3 million to $1.6 million. Quite a bit of opportunity, lots of dollars leaving Garfield County.

Let’s compare those with the opportunity gaps in Rifle: Drugs, health and beauty aids $6.4 million; women’s, juniors and misses wear, $2.9 million; children’s wear, nearly $2 million; men’s wear, $1.8 million; computer hardware, software and supplies, $1.7 million and footwear at $1.3 million.

In three categories (women’s, juniors and misses wear; children’s wear; drugs, health and beauty aids), consumers are not only leaving Rifle, but also the county. How do we correct and capitalize on this?

Like I said earlier, we have the people in this community with the knowledge and drive to “seize the opportunity.” We will work together to strategize, formulate the correct plan and implement that plan with confidence.

Over the years, Rifle has been blessed with countless leaders and volunteers to aid in bringing this chamber of commerce and business community together, seizing prior opportunities with many great ideas, a lot of hard work, some laughter and some tears.

Another opportunity is upon us. Let’s seize this opportunity and show future generations, 60 years from now, that we came together and got it done by working together.

Frank Ladd is president and CEO of the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce.

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