Rifle feels the boom, braces for the bust
RIFLE, Colo. Rifle needs to be cautious of becoming overly dependent on oil and gas development, which could crowd out other industries, according to a recently released community case study.The study was conducted by Denver-based BBC Research & Consulting, which began the work in the fall of 2007. The study is an offshoot of a larger, four-county regional study conducted by the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, which looked at socioeconomic impacts from energy development in the counties of Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat and Mesa.The goal of this report was a case study of the community and a look to the future, said Mike Braaten, government affairs and energy coordinator for the city of Rifle.Braaten said there werent a lot of surprises in the study, but noted investment timing issues upfront financing for things like infrastructure to accommodate the citys growth, for example stood out.The big thing is investment timing because the community has to build infrastructure and spend millions of dollars at the risk of overbuilding, Braaten said.He was referring to the oil shale bust in May 1982, also referred to as Black Sunday, when Exxon pulled out of the area overnight, leaving thousands of people without jobs.Those who lived in the area at the time well remember the bust and some look skeptically at the current boom waiting to see if it will happen again.In Rifle, weve seen firsthand what can happen when the energy industry disappears overnight, said Mayor Keith Lambert. If we become a one-industry town, we risk a repeat of Black Sunday. This report highlights some warning signs.The boom of natural gas development in recent years and a projected resurgence of oil shale development within the next 10 to 15 years will mean rapid growth to a city that already rivals Glenwood Springs in population at nearly 10,000 in 2007, making it the second largest community in northwest Colorado behind Grand Junction, according to the report.While oil and gas development has brought revenue in the form of sales tax and increased property values, it has also increased the demand for city services, generated greater traffic congestion, reduced the number of available hotel rooms for tourists and created competition for local workers, the study says.In general, the study looks at how energy has changed the economy here, Braaten said. Were going to use (the study) to speak to local, state and federal representatives because we need some assistance. Rifle is going to be a hotbed of (oil and gas) activity.That assistance will most likely come from the Department of Local Affairs Energy Impact Fund, Braaten said.Rifle City Council members listened to a presentation of the study results by BBC Research & Consulting at a workshop Wednesday evening.To see results of the study, visit the citys website at http://www.rifleco.org. The full Northwest Colorado Socioeconomic Analysis and Forecasts report is available at http://www.agnc.org.
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