Western Slope Round-Up: Taking Care of Business

It’s time to take a business trip around the Western Slope. We will first drive you to Aspen, where we can always find the unusual.

Please read on….Aspen Over-Zooming with Vehicles
Sure, there are half million dollar Ferraris gracing the streets of Aspen. But who is raking in the dough when it comes to car sales? The local Toyota dealer.

There may be 31 Hummers, 50 Jaguars, 298 Mercedes-Benz, 117 Cadillacs, 217 Porches and many more high-end vehicles, but the most popular vehicle is Toyota-numbering about 2,522.

From the Aspen Times Weekly:

And do we tree-hugging Aspenites love cars as much as the rest of America?

We love cars quite a lot more.

According to the Federal Highway Commission’s 2006 statistics, there is one automobile for every five people, in Colorado and nationally. In Pitkin County, there are 1.2 vehicles per person, and that does not even include the commercial automobiles that national statistics take into account.

There are enough cars registered in Pitkin County – 18,039 – to account for 1 percent of the total in the state while the population – 14,872 – is only one-third of 1 percent. That’s six times more vehicles per capita than the state average.

And, of course, cars are big business in Pitkin County, with a current total taxable value of $452.8 million.

“Volume has increased,” said Steve Zeder, general manager of Bighorn Toyota, in Glenwood Springs. “We’re selling more vehicles than we did three years ago and six years ago and so on. As the population of the valley increases, it’s increasing across the board.”

And what auto repair shop east of LA can brag about BMW’s, Range Rovers and “stuff like that” in their lot? Aspen’s D&D Auto Repair. The owner talked to the Times Weekly reporter:

“Just looking out in our parking lot now, I have a Chevy Lumina, a Pontiac, a Toyota, a Rolls getting stuff on it.”

He said some of the truly unusual stuff he sees are the vehicles that are 10 or 15 years old with only 15,000 miles. Whereas many cars in the rest of the country are driven into the ground, second cars here are just like second homes – used for a week or two each year.

“Some of these cars, they bought (in Glenwood) and the farthest it’s been is Glenwood,” he said. “The car is 15 years old and has never made it past Glenwood.”

Does that mean there could be an instant antique car show when second home owners open their garages?

Tourism Looking Good
Sales tax collections during the first part of the summer indicate that business is up across the Divide. Many small retail businesses and motels must do well over the summer to survive the rest of the year. Also, local depend on the tax collections on sold goods and services to run their government programs.

After this summer, some entities will actually have money in the bank.

The Town of Carbondale, located about 30 miles from Aspen, announced their sale tax revenues were up by 16% from last year. The Valley Journal has more:

Through June of this year, revenues from the town’s 3.5 percent sales tax are more than 16 percent ahead of last year, with increases reported in each of the first six months, according to the report compiled by Carbondale Finance Director Nancy Barnett.

The biggest single month to date was June, which brought in $363,557, compared to $314,761 for June 2006.

Meanwhile, town spending to date is also below budgeted projections, meaning the general fund budget is expected to end the year with another healthy reserve balance.

“Yes, we are seeing a 15 percent increase in revenues, but I’m also seeing wages and benefits going up,” Trustee John Foulkrod said. That should serve as a caution sign entering the budget process, he said.

Several hundred miles south in Durango, no sales tax records are being set, but the tourist business is still healthy. From the Durango Herald:

Sales-tax collections increased 5.3 percent in May and 3.6 percent in June over the same months in 2006. Lodgers tax receipts, an indication of how many tourists visited, increased 9.3 percent in May and 11.1 percent in June over the same months in 2006. The increases, while substantial, were only about half of the jumps seen in 2006. 

With traffic records being set again at the Eisenhower Tunnel in July, no doubt revenues for the 2007 tourist season will be climbing even higher.

Craig Chamber Revs Up on Issues
Deciding to take an “advisory” role than an “activisim” role, members of the Craig Chamber of Commerce agreed to become more politically active on issues, particularly when it comes to town projects or energy exploration.  The Craig Daily News explained:

The Chamber should be a political leader, but should not pursue controversial agendas that would potentially divide its members, the Chamber decided Thursday during its monthly board meeting.

Executive Director Christina Currie said the Chamber had discussed becoming more politically involved for a long time.

“As the Chamber, we’re an advocate for local business,” Currie said. “But we also represent the community.”

“Since we don’t want to offend one member over the other, we could focus more on the education of things coming up,” board member Rebecca Greenwood said. “This is more of a direction on information than this is a political stance.”

In the small towns on the Western Slope, chamber of commerce members can wear many different hats because there is not enough people to fill the slots for other leadership roles in local schools, hospital, government and other organizations. This “cross pollination” can actually help develop community consensus on issues.

Crime Looking  Bad
In the Four Corners part of the state, Trinidad business people met with local government and law enforcement officials over the concerns of increased violence, vandalism and vagrancy affecting their businesses.

The Times Independent in Trinidad reported issues discussed at this special meeting:

Repeated mention was made of publicly-intoxicated people who urinated in public and harassed potential customers.

Chronicle-News reporter Marty Hackett spoke of the people who made a habit of drunkenly loitering behind her office building and urinating on the property.

Told by Police Chief Glorioso to call the police when she noticed such things occurring, Hackett replied, “Charlie, I’d have to call you 10-times a day.”

A similar exchange took place when Terry Clark complained about the same repeat-offenders by his restaurant. Told by Glorioso to contact them when problems occurred, Clark replied, “It shouldn’t be our responsibility, because it always occurs, chief. I mean, it’s daily.”

Clark, reportedly tired of having to deal with the vagrants by his restaurant, suggested repeat-offender drunks and vagrants be locked in solitary confinement in jail for 23 hours a day. Others suggested, perhaps not wholly serious, one-way bus tickets to Albuquerque and other cities.

Another solution was suggested by the police chief-security cameras for the Trinidad downtown area. A local business owner agreed. It helped him catch vandals who broke into his office. As quoted in the Times, the police chief said: “I wouldn’t mind seeing on our sign: “Welcome to Trinidad Downtown Zone of Surveillance.”