Is the Vail area economy starting to rebound?
October 2, 2009
VAIL, Colo. – The Vail area’s giddy boom days of 2007 are long past, but there may be some signs the local economy is starting to show some signs of life.
Michelle Cappell of Elite Limousine is starting to see it in her business.
“We’re on a little bit of an upswing,” Cappell said. “What I’m hearing from my customers – and those are some members of the Fortune 500 – is that people are tired of sitting around. They’re ready to spend some money again.”
Chad Brasington is seeing it, too. Brasington, a broker with Colorado Prudential Properties, is also president of the Vail Board of Realtors. That group’s numbers show that more people are signing purchase contracts these days, although the numbers are still well behind the ones run up in the boom days.
Brasington, along with Phil Frank of Colorado Commercial Bank, Kyle Hoiland of the Eagle Valley Homebuilders Association and Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney, were the panelists Thursday at the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce’s first Eagle Business Forum. The event drew about 40 people to the commissioners’ meeting room in the Eagle County Administration Building.
But while Brasington talked about an upswing, he and the other panelists mostly talked about what it’s going to take to get the valley’s economy really moving again.
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Frank, who’s been in the banking business for about 30 years, said the days of easy money for builders and buyers has been replaced by tough loan requirements.
Banks are facing a pile of new regulations, Frank said, and have re-instituted requirements for good credit scores, tightly-focused business plans and other documents bankers asked for until fairly recently.
Tight money, combined with the rest of the economic slump, has hit the valley’s construction industry hard, Hoiland said. In fact, he said, he was laid off recently.
Hoiland and Frank both said businesses have to be willing to make tough decisions, and also need to become nimble enough to move quickly.
Frank suggested that construction companies need to concentrate on remodeling while new construction is down. Hoiland said that this fall’s ballot initiative to create a county-run “smart loan” program for energy-efficient renovations could give a real kick-start to local construction companies with the expertise to do “green” projects.
While there are ideas floating around to help the local economy, the panelists said there’s little chance of finding new economic engines besides the resort business. Brasington said the cost of land, even with declines over the last year or so, is still far higher than other areas.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t more resort business to lure.
Stavney said the valley’s various towns and neighborhoods need to realize the value of selling the whole area, from the Eagle County Fairgrounds to the soccer fields in East Vail. He also advocated more cooperation between agencies like the Vail Recreation District and the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District.
And, responding to a comment from Eagle Resident Charlie Wick about the need for a regional conference center, Stavney said he’d support a drive to put one just about anywhere in the valley.
Michael Kurz of the Vail Valley Partnership also said the valley needs to drum up more support for the Eagle Valley Air Alliance.
“We’re down to about 20 members now, and we should be up about 150,” Kurz said. The airport, he said, will play a key role in any economic rebound.
After the session, Cappell said she was happy she attended.
“It’s important to have talks like these, especially in years like this one,” she said.