Sales taxes keep zooming |

Sales taxes keep zooming

Scottt N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” The county’s boom isn’t limited to real estate sales. Sales of everything from aspirin to jewelry are up, too. Scott Proper believes the boom could continue, too.

“Demographic changes are driving demand,” said Proper, a vice president at Millennium Bank in Edwards.

“Look back and 20 years ago, the concept of an active retirement basically didn’t exist,” Proper said. “Now it’s almost a matter of course. This is a spectacular location for an active vacation and an active retirement.”

Since the first members of the Baby Boom generation just turned 60 last year, the “active retirement” trend is likely to continue, Proper said. And that’s likely to continue to provide customers for stores, all of which pay sales taxes to state, county and town governments.

Sales tax fuels government in Colorado. It pays for everything from buses on the streets of Vail to the new recreation center in Gypsum. And both tourists and locals are spending.

Vail officials recently trumpeted 2006 as the best year ever for sales tax collections, with about $17.8 million going into the town’s bank account. The previous record year was 2005, with $16.5 million in sales taxes.

And business, even in places most affected by the town’s construction projects, seems to be pretty good.

“We had one of our best years last year,” Lionshead Liquor co-owner Tim Robbins said. “Of course, we get a lot of business from the construction workers.”

Robbins’ store is on the west side of the Arrabelle at Vail Square project. He didn’t want to speak for his neighbors, but he said, “When you’re selling beer, cigarettes and Red Bull, you can’t go wrong.”

While Vail posted the biggest dollar numbers for any place in Eagle County last year, its rate of growth was only about 8 percent.

In most places, that growth rate would be front-page news. But Vail’s sales tax growth pales in comparison to the rate of climb in Eagle and Gypsum, both of which grew more than 20 percent each.

In something of a surprise, Gypsum’s growth rate was nearly identical to Eagle’s despite a Costco store that opened in Gypsum in October.

Lisa Kosak’s business is up with the rest of the downvalley towns. Kosak, owner of Copy Plus in Eagle, sees good times ahead.

“It’s a great business environment,” Kosak said. “We don’t just depend on the ski hill anymore.”

And the growth that’s turned Edwards into a vibrant retail area is hitting Eagle and Gypsum, too, Kosak said.

“I see parents retiring here to be near their kids who already live here,” Kosak said.

But the growth in the valley’s retail business comes with a fairly serious flip side.

“It’s getting harder to find employees,” Kosak said. “We can’t clone them.”

Costco sucked up a lot of the lower valley’s labor pool, Kosak said.

“I’ve had people ask if they can just work Fridays and Saturdays,” she said. “I don’t need that, but Costco does.”

But the allure of a new place to work may not be enough to overcome some people’s desire to work for a small company.

“A lot of people left the cities so they wouldn’t have to work for big corporations,” Kosak said. “There’s still a small-town atmosphere here they like.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930 or

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