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The West’s changing economics

Staff Reports

A report recently released by the Sonoran Institute suggests that the West is undergoing a significant economic transition.The study, titled “The Changing Economy of the West,” outlines economic changes across the West as rural communities become less dependent on mining, ranching and agriculture and more dependent on recreation, tourism, retail and other service sector jobs.As a percentage of personal income in Colorado, mining decreased by nearly half from 1.9 percent to 1 percent between 1970 and 2000. In that same period, mining shrunk from 1.7 percent to 0.3 percent of total employment statewide.By comparison, service and professional employment rose from 53 percent to 76 percent of total employment. The changes are more significant when metropolitan areas are removed from the data. In non-metropolitan areas, mining lost over 2,000 jobs since 1970, shifting from 5 percent to 1 percent of total employment.A recent survey of Garfield County’s Economic Profile, where the Roan Plateau is located, suggests that the region has shifted to a diverse service and self-employment based economy. Non-labor income accounted for 32 percent of Garfield County’s Total Person Income (TPI) in 1997.By 1998, self-employment made up another third of the county’s TPI, an increase of 300 percent since 1970. Within that same period Garfield County has added 18,000 jobs, making for a 306 percent increase. A third of those were added to the service sector, which includes tourism, health care, and high tech jobs. By comparison, jobs in Resource Extraction industry have dropped by 12 percent in the same period, accounting for 1 percent of the County TPI in 1997.For Keith Lambert all these changes fit within the historical framework of the Roan Plateau debate.”For years the history of Rifle has been tied to recreation, and specifically to hunting,” he says. “This community has been through the ups and downs of energy development and we want to ensure that we have something we can always count on. The Plateau offers that. There is a strong feeling that the historic uses need to be maintained, we don’t want that to be spoiled.”To Lambert, this common history informs the present debate and he hopes it will help communities in the area come together to form a common position. By Clark Anderson


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