"Perfect Storm’ of year continuing | VailDaily.com

"Perfect Storm’ of year continuing

Don Rogers

Never mind a hiring freeze – it’s looking like a round of layoffs is in the offing. The company must trim about $20 million from spending, we understand. It’s going to hurt, no question.

Early bookings for ski season lodging look lower than even last year at this time, right after Sept. 11. War talk, a stock market tipping the wrong way, consumer confidence finally faltering to 1993 levels. Plenty of tea leaves portend more tough times ahead.

Local foreclosures appear on track for another record this year. Those upbeat smiles among the real estate crowd are beginning to look a bit more fixed, more grimace-like, as prices for most types of housing fade and units sit longer on the market awaiting sales.

We’ll see, soon enough, where the catalyst company is concerned. Budget cutting and layoffs are no fun for anyone. The ripples and recriminations will of course add to the pain all along the valley.

What we’ll also see, or ought to see, is government entities taking the cue and revising their expectations for the next year even lower. Businesses are already doing this, feeling the icy end of the cold fact that they cannot take in less money than they expend for very long.

The ski company’s actions to protect the franchise will naturally translate into accusations of greed, mainly from people who could not balance their own checkbooks or quite understand why they must. The sad reality of actual greed among glamour CEOs and other high execs, some of whom have put their vacation homes up for sale here, will sharpen the stick of criticism locally. The sad symbolic consequence of the revelations from Vail Resorts will likely feed a self-defeating pessimism, at least for a time. The hand-wringing alone may raise a gale.

How all this affects election decisions will be interesting, even disheartening. We’ve got a fistful of ballot measures seeking tax increases, all for good causes. It would be quite a stretch to imagine all of them sailing through like the ones last spring did.

Somehow, we manage to forget that the economy works in cycles. The market will not forever go mainly down in big 2-3 percent daily trading chunks, just as it was not destined to always emulate helium. Yes, the dot.scam days are done, but there will be more developments to get excited about in time, ideally ones with firmer foundations than that “New Economy” nonsense. Meanwhile the Internet world does continue to grow, however quietly now. More people are tapping in than ever.

Global warming may well be upon us, but we can bet the farm there’ll be a few snowy winters yet before we become Moab. Maybe the governor will even be compelled before Christmas to utter some wild-eyed exaggeration like: “It’s snowing all over Colorado!”

Even though our relatively gentle recession may yet bite harder before recovering more fully, the signs are not all doleful, either.

Developers stripped of belief in their indicators do not summon the bull dozers and endure the expense of building grand projects such as at Berry Creek and the Village at Avon, home to our first big box retailers and eventually 2,000 or so homes. Many of us may pine for that abandoned airstrip where a new era in High Country shopping is taking root. But it would be left to decay if our economic foundation and future truly were dark.

Yahoo! – remember them? – is reporting stronger than anticipated earnings, perhaps presaging the re-emergence of sounder dot-com enterprises. Traditional bellwether GE’s favorable earnings statement sent the Dow up 260 points Friday, after the index rose 240 points Thursday. At some point, an upward trend will settle in. It may come after war or the threat of war passes, after consumers recover from rattled nerves about spending, after winter. But it will come.

It’s been the Perfect Storm sort of year for the valley so tied to Wall Street and national happenings such as the Sept. 11 attacks, airline difficulties, struggling economy, bad boy (and girl) CEOs, looming war on Iraq. Combine that locally with low snow, fire and drought, and we’ve already weathered a lot. VR’s news to come will mean we’ll weather more yet, obviously.

Brace yourself. But also understand that all is not lost forever.

Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.com

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