Eagle County business to talk real estate, finance | VailDaily.com

Eagle County business to talk real estate, finance

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Randy Olin happily admits he’s flat-out stolen an idea. Fortunately, this idea was there for the taking, so there’s no need to call a cop.

Olin, a board member of the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce and the vice president of finance and comptroller at The Gallegos Corporation, has been to the last couple of Vail Valley Valley Business Forums the Vail Valley Partnership has hosted.

“I was so impressed,” he said. “I thought it would be great to something similar on a real local level.”

So Olin started looking for sponsors, speakers and venues. He ended up with an invitation to use the big meeting room at the Eagle County Administration Building, with a few strings attached. The biggest of those strings is that any group using the room can’t charge admission. The room also can’t be used for hawking commercial products or services.

But a big room is a big room, so Olin went to work rounding up speakers.

He wound up with a panel that’s going to focus on the real estate, finance and construction industries, with banker Phil Frank, Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney and Chad Brasington of Prudential Colorado Properties. He wants a speaker from the construction business, too, but hadn’t nailed down a speaker when he sat down for this story.

Frank said his remarks will focus on how the hard slump in the area’s real estate and construction industries has affected lending.

“It’s been a challenging time for us,” Frank said. “We did a lot of real estate lending and that’s basically dried up.”

Frank said he believes the valley’s current real estate inventory – about two year’s worth, based on sales numbers from the last few months – is going to have to come down before construction will start going again. And construction is going to have to rebound before banks will start lending for projects again.

Frank has worked in the Western Slope banking business for about 30 years now, and remembers well the economic slump of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The difference between then and now, he said, is interest rates.

“Interest rates were through the roof back then,” he said. “The prime rate was a 21 percent for a while. At least the rates are much lower today.”

But even low rates don’t help when people don’t want to buy.

So, until the economy starts to turn around, what’s the value of a forum?

“I think networking may be the biggest benefit,” Frank said. “Hopefully people can get ideas and thoughts from other people going through this about ways to get by.”

Olin said he’s recently been inspired by “Three Moves Ahead,” a book by Bob Rice about how chess strategy can help people planning for business.

“When change is coming so fast, you can’t plan to the end of the game,” Olin said. “Chess masters playing other masters can’t plan until the end of a game, but they can plan three moves ahead.”

The point, Olin said, is to plan, but to remain flexible enough to change quickly when events demand it.

Olin also is planning for next year’s Eagle Business Forum, and has an idea of which local businesses he’d like to focus on, including the retail and restaurant businesses. But that could change.

“And I sure hope we have better economic news to talk about next time,” he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or at smiller@vaildaily.com.

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