Carnes: Economic blues in the Vail Valley
“My business is better than it’s ever been,” said one local Realtor.
“Slow-down? What slow-down?” asked another in the same industry, with what could only be described as a deer-in-the-headlights stare.
Apparently neither could comprehend the incredulity as it spread evenly across my face, so I shrugged my shoulders and took the logical next step, buying each another beer.
At some point in the near future, both will hopefully be recovering delusionists, but for the moment they seem to be stuck in a rose-colored financial time warp.
Those of us with bank accounts here in Happy Valley are as immune from the ups and downs of the national economy as Barack Hussein Obama is from accusations of secretly kneeling towards Mecca five times a day without anyone ever noticing.
We can tell ourselves we’re not affected by it, but that only lasts until the very moment we realize we actually are.
I often ask people, “How’s business?” when I’m out and about, whether I’m playing on the ski mountain, drinking in a bar, or stumbling in a trance through Wally World. It’s not just a placating waste of nonchalant time, as I mentally compile the answers to help develop a feel for how things are going, with ‘things’ being money, kids, holidays, the latest medical emergency and so on. You know, life in general.
I began to really notice the verbal trend last fall, as the rational segment of the nation finally started to accept the inevitable credit crunch due to ignorant buyers and not-so-ignorant sellers.
Some would laugh (nervously, now that I think about it), at the prospect of us (US!) actually being affected, and then quickly change the subject back to the imminent mass snow dumps we were surely about to receive.
Ignorance colored with a snow-white shade of bliss.
Others, only a few though, expressed serious concerns about possible repercussions, and how quickly they could work their way up our financial food chain hiding high in the Rockies.
Four to five months later, the majority has switched seats, yet that leaves many of our friends and neighbors still naively downing the Kool-Aid of economic ignorance.
Read my lips (use your imagination): Our national, Bush Administration-enhanced, economic meltdown is happening right here, right now, today, as you read this, and will be until sometime in the not-foreseeable future. When the engines of commerce finally get refueled is anyone’s guess, including many much more knowledgeable than me on the subject (not much of a stretch).
Open your eyes and do a metaphorical 360:
Vail Resorts’ dismal numbers are not exactly a surprise, but anyone who believes gross profits are in direct proportion with snowfall totals would probably believe the same for U.S. military spending and safety for Americans.
January real estate sales were the lowest in 12 years. I know quite a few who have taken their property off the market for this very reason, and a few more who wish they could, but literally cannot afford the risk. They must sell and find something more affordable, or not sell and say bye-bye to their credit, or not sell and just up and leave the valley.
National home foreclosures are up a whopping 60 percent over this time last year; 27 percent in Colorado. If you think nobody’s worried around here about losing their home, I strongly suggest you put down the bong and think again.
February retail sales for the nation, already saddled with a projected loss over 2007, were three times worse than the Commerce Department had expected. Local retail reports (albeit only verbally to me) are even worse.
In January, the once highly-touted West End Project was celebrating the long lines of prospective buyers, and less than two months later is making excuses for lack of sales.
Then there’s the Gates Project in Avon (located in what’s shaping up to be the most cursed piece of land in Eagle County), Solaris, Four Seasons, The Willows, Arrabelle, Ritz-Carlton, Manor Vail, the new Westin and that Miami Vice-looking thing in Edwards.
Think the creditors behind any or all of them are nervous?
How about Ginn, Lindholm, Wolcott and Eagle River Station?
No matter what these people are saying in public, the only ones sleeping well are doing so with pharmaceutical assistance.
In spite of all this, take a deep breath and realize there is no sky falling, and like all economic cycles, this one will end, but continuing champagne habits while slowly being forced to live on a beer salary can only end one way, and it ain’t pretty.
NOTE: The preceding opinions belong to Richard and are not necessarily shared by this newspaper … but for some fiscally responsible reason he thinks they should be.
Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a column for the Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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A Nov. 30 to Governor Polis and the Eagle County Commissioners from Beaver Creek Resorts Company – as well as the towns of Vail, Avon, Eagle and Minturn – requests a variance program which would allow businesses to remain open.