Staying afloat in the Vail Valley |

Staying afloat in the Vail Valley

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” Scott Cliver’s phone was ringing, hard, six months ago. Now it isn’t.

Cliver, who builds expensive homes in the valley, said those phone calls last winter were coming from contractors looking for work.

“For the last six weeks, though, I haven’t had any calls,” he said.

Cliver was interviewed at a presentation about the national economy hosted by local mortgage broker Jimmy Brenner. That presentation, given by David Creasey and Whitney Randolph of Bank of America, presented a sobering look at trends in the national economy.

Their view is that a combination including high fuel and food prices, pressure on interest rates to rise and a declining dollar will keep the United States economy in the doldrums for a while.

“We’ve been fortunate here,” said Steve MacDonald of Coldwell Banker after the presentation. “We haven’t been nicked too hard in the last six months like a lot of other places.”

We’re not immune

While Cliver’s crews are busy, and he’s had a lot of interest in a $14 million home he built in Arrowhead, the news is different at Integrity Mortgage of the Rockies.

Integrity co-owner John Paxson was one of the sponsors of a Tuesday presentation by money manager Paul Dietrich. Before that presentation, he took a few minutes to talk about how his business is surviving a local slowdown in real estate sales, and a national credit crunch that’s seen most lenders seriously tighten their standards.

Business is OK, Paxson said, but, “We’re doing without some inside help we’ve had in the past.” While no one’s been laid off, Integrity hasn’t replaced a few people who have left the company.

In the current environment, Paxson said people in the mortgage business have to be more aggressive, both in marketing, and looking for sources of money.

“Things change daily, almost,” Paxson said.

“The problem today is qualifying people,” he said. “There was a big window to get people mortgages, and that window is a lot smaller now.”

The key to keeping the doors open and lights on, Paxson said, is being as smart as possible with expenses. That’s why brokers are answering their own phones these days.

Other people in the financial business, though, are adding people

Brian Loiseau of the Denver office of Investment Advisors International, said his company just added three people, and those people are making more frequent visits to the Vail Valley.

Investment Advisors International pitches alternatives to mutual funds and other stock market-based investments.

“Everybody’s frightened these days,” Loiseau said. “People understand there’s got to be a better way than they’re using now… I’ve never been busier.”

Just hard work

The increasing cost of fuel is keeping a lot of small businesses scrambling, especially as they decide how much of their rising costs they can pass on to customers. Karin Augusiewicz and Preston Bryant of Just Us Gardeners say they’ve been fortunate.

“We had to raise our prices,” Augusiewicz said before Tuesday’s seminar. “We sent a letter to our clients, and they understood. They’re going through the same things we are.”

Augusiewicz said her company is fortunate to have a lot of owners of high-end homes on its client list.

“We’re lucky to have them.”

While Just Us Gardeners still has the same size crew it did last summer, Bryant said he and his partner are staying afloat by “working our (tails) off.”

Even with a shaky national economy, Bryant said his company’s biggest problem is still finding people.

“It’s harder to get workers today than it was three years ago,” property manager Tim Simon said.

“If we had help, we wouldn’t all be working so hard,” Sue Harding-Bryant said.

Harding-Bryant had her own shop in Vail for a number of years, and now is an independent contractor at the Looking Good Salon in Eagle-Vail. That shop is busy, she said.

“People are still spending money on themselves,” she said. “It makes them feel better.”

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

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