Economic slow down hits Eagle, Gypsum |

Economic slow down hits Eagle, Gypsum

Katie Drucker
Eagle County, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Turbulent financial times are on the horizon for Eagle County, Colorado and the rest of the country, but experts at last week’s economic symposium in Beaver Creek were confident that this region is strong enough to weather the storm.

“It will get worse before it gets better in the most likely scenario,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist for Global Insight. Behravesh predicts that local home prices will fall and growth will slow at least for two to three years.

There’s already data to support his forecast. Eagle County Assessor Mark Chapin said building permits have already decreased about a third, and he predicted additional drops.

With less building, the construction industry is sure to struggle.

“Employment in construction is going to take a big, big hit,” said James Chung, president of Research Advisors, a research and marketing firm for resort industries.

Chung said there will certainly be layoffs, noting that Vail Valley-based East West Partners has already laid off workers.

Chapin said existing projects, such as Stratton Flats and Brightwater, will keep workers employed but added there’s no large-scale projects on the horizon.

What does this mean for Eagle and Gypsum?

“The economy has already affected us,” said Sarah Braucht, Eagle community development administration assistant. As evidence Braucht cited 11 new single-family homes built in Eagle this past spring, compared to 83 new single-family homes built in the spring of 2007.

“Eagle is down 50 percent in total permits this year,” said Bob Kohrmann, Eagle building official.

No new spec homes are being built, until lots are purchased, added Braucht. And projects such as Brush Creek Village are on hold.

“A lot of contractors are looking for work,” said Braucht.

As a result, cuts are already being made in the downvalley construction industry.

“I have heard a lot of companies are laying off staff,” said Kohrmann.

Chris Spiegel, owner of Spiegel Construction, an excavating company based in Gypsum, said though he is busy as of now, he has cut one full crew.

“I am going one less crew and staying busy with guys that have been with me for longer. Hopefully I don’t have to cut another crew. You never know,” says Spiegel.

There are currently approximately 40 contractor licenses in Gypsum, said Janice Buckalew, Gypsum sales tax auditor. There are 32 contractor licenses on Eagle’s 2008 list. Those are big numbers for the two small communities.

“I think most of the workforce for construction lives in Eagle and Gypsum,” said Spiegel.

Though tough times are ahead for construction companies and workers, the consensus is that the valley will again see good times, due to its unusual qualities that bring people here. Chapin noted in robust or lean economic times, people still want to find a way to live in the valley.

“The valley usually pulls its way through,” said Spiegel.

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