Signs of economic hope
July 15, 2009
At this point in the so-called Great Recession, many of us are looking for signs of light at the end of the tunnel.
A couple of such signs could be seen in recent news stories, but there are also signs that Aspen may be years from a full recovery, and that it may be a significantly changed community when this downturn is finally behind us.
First, the good news. In a cash deal last week, a Red Mountain home sold for $43 million. Taken alone, this sale directly benefited just a few people and doesn’t signal a recovery of the local real estate market. Still, it is a reminder that Aspen remains a desirable place for people who can afford it.
A second piece of good news came in the form of an expression of confidence in our economy’s long-term viability. The Roaring Fork Transportation Agency received a AA rating on bonds it sold last week for an upcoming expansion of its bus network. The rating marked a significant improvement over bonds the agency sold in 2005, and indicates that bond investors believe in RFTA’s, and the local economy’s, long-term strength.
Of course, this newspaper also recently reported on the valley’s huge, and possibly record-breaking, amount of real estate inventory. This is good news for potential buyers, who should be able to find deals amid all the choices; but of course the sizable inventory also indicates that properties aren’t selling, that sellers and buyers aren’t yet seeing eye to eye.
Clearly, despite the positive signs, there is quite a distance between today and a recovery.
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For years, real estate has been the primary driver of the local economy, so we naturally look there for signs of what’s to come. But perhaps it’s time to look beyond real estate sales and speculation to sustain the upper Roaring Fork Valley. Perhaps we’re headed for a time when Aspen’s economic health rests more on sustainable tourism – skiing, recreation, arts and culture, hospitality – than trophy-home sales.
We’re not out of these recessionary woods yet. And when we do find daylight, it might look different than it did in 2007. But Aspen will still be a great place to live, work and play when banks are ready to lend again and Americans want to spend again.
And just as every business and every household has adjusted its behavior and found better, smarter ways to operate through the recession, so will this community. Who knows – the “new Aspen” may even be an improvement.