No more excuses
“It’s a bedroom community.”
“You know, this place has been boom-bust for … forever.”
I hear these words, or some approximate version of them, in almost every conversation I have these days. They were uttered by the business owners I talked to in the course of reporting the story last week on first-quarter business in Rifle; including the three business owners not mentioned in the story. Administrators at city hall and everyday people around town say the same. It has to stop.
We should all know the history by now — I know I do. There were booms, and then there were busts. Repeat. Repeat. The latter part of that cycle is playing out now. This is not to make light of the current situation. Shortly after arriving in Rifle, I drove to the west end of the city limits to buy a desk posted on one of the local Facebook swap pages. It was a couple with two young children. They loved their home and they loved Rifle, but they were moving to Texas because, “They’re still drilling there,” the wife told me. They are likely some of the lucky ones. The economic importance of the energy industry is indisputable. I’m struck, though, by the fact that we all know this and yet it continues to play out. At some point you have to diversify. This is not breaking news to most people. In Parachute, the town is working on an economic development plan that those involved hope will lead to the economic infrastructure necessary for supporting the town during inevitable downturns in the energy sector. Last week, trustees directed staff to draft ordinances paving the way for marijuana businesses in Parachute. With almost no public input during last week’s meeting, it remains to be seen if Parachute residents have any appetite for bringing an industry to a town that unanimously said “no” to it less than one year ago. But at least they are exploring options.
The situation is not as dire in Rifle, but the need to diversify is still present. During a work session last week, administrators mentioned an ongoing effort to bring together key players — including city staff members, the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Development Authority and others — with the goal of aligning priorities to form a comprehensive marketing plan for the city. The larger question might be: What do we market the city as? It’s going be interesting to see what comes out of this ongoing effort. Hopefully it results in something that can be put into action, because Rifle residents deserve more than a history lesson.
Ryan Hoffman is editor of The Citizen Telegram. He can be reached at 970-685-2103 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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