State officials ponder effects changing demographics | VailDaily.com

State officials ponder effects changing demographics

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – A former senior state demographer says there are fewer rich people, and the remaining rich could be more determined to hang onto their money.

That could change the way things work in places like Vail, Aspen and other resort areas, says Jim Westkott.

Westkott says some of those considered wealthy four ago lost money that they’re not likely to recover in the near future.

Westkott says that building large, expensive second homes will decline because there are simply not as many people who can afford them, or are willing to buy them.

Check out some from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Colorado’s current state demographer, Elizabeth Garner, says it’s no mystery that even with the recession bottoming out, fewer dollars are changing hands.

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The mystery is what that might mean for our future.

“The recession changes everything. We change our forecast every year. The near term question is whether you return to your previous growth pattern,” Garner said.

The demographer’s office had Eagle County’s population at 56,000, statistics pulled from the latest U.S. Census data.

They had projected growth based on date gathered between 2006 and 2009. Things have changed, and for now and Eagle County is projected to grow to 103,000 people by 2040.

That’s revised downward from initial projections a couple years ago, Garner said.

Household income fell all across Colorado during the recession, but nowhere as far as Pitkin County, where it plunged by $12,000, Garner said.

Eagle County is experiencing the same trend, but not to Pitkin County’s degree, Garner said.

The Pitkin County area and Roaring Fork Valley, anecdotally, is becoming more economically diverse as areas outside Aspen, like Basalt and El Jebel, become more economically independent and depend less on Aspen, Garner said.

El Jebel and Basalt are in Eagle County.

“Median household income could also fall if their very wealthy left or if they lost their money,” Garner said.

Then again, recession is a matter of perspective.

“There’s a group of the wealthy for whom it was not that big of a deal,” Garner said.

The next 10-15 years will be interesting for the entire state, Garner said.

Baby Boomers, aged 45-65, will age out of the labor force completely in the next 20 years, Garner said.

“Who’s going to take those jobs? And who’s going to take care of their needs?” Garner said. “Will they retire here? Will they move somewhere else? There’s such uncertainty.”

People between the ages of 45 and 55 are most likely to buy second homes, according to the economic analysis firm Loyd Levy Consulting.

Boomers are aging out of that demographic, with smaller numbers of people behind them, according to the 2010 Census.

The data is not yet available for 2009-2010 and the depths of the recession. Information for 2006-2010 will be available in December, Garner said.

According to Loyd Levy Consulting, which studied the issues for Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, 45.1 percent of jobs in Eagle County – 15,133 jobs – were generated by second homes, combining construction and owner spending.

That was 41 percent in Pitkin County.

In both counties, 20 percent of jobs were generated by winter tourism, the study found.

“That was the case in 2004 when this study was done, but obviously things have changed significantly,” said Rachel Lunney, a researcher with the council.

Almost exactly half of the homes in Eagle County are second homes (49 percent), owned by nonlocals, according to a 2004 study by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. In Pitkin County that’s 55 percent, 63 percent in Grand County and 67 percent in Summit County.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.