Romer: It’s complicated
It’s a common question that we ask each other numerous times a day: “How are things?” Or its close cousin: “How are you doing?”
The typical response seems to be “I’m busy” or “I’m doing good.” That surface-level answer is normal but doesn’t even begin to address the question in an honest way. Yes, most everyone is “busy” with life (work, family, etc.) and hopefully many are also “good” by traditional measurements.
If we’re being candid and open, an honest answer to the question of “How are things?” would probably be: “Complicated.”
Things are certainly complicated in almost every way imaginable. “It’s complicated” is more than a Facebook relationship status — it’s also a pretty accurate summary of 2021 and our current environment.
Consider the latest COVID-19 variants: It’s complicated. Public health data show that although vaccines are not 100% effective, they are effective at preventing illness and are remarkably effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death.
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Most cases are among unvaccinated community members. Eagle County is doing quite well with vaccination (83% of those eligible and 71% overall when including children under 12). Vaccination is our best protection against COVID-19 and ensures business continuity and economic resiliency. We’re doing well here, but still have a ways to go.
Consider the workforce shortage: It’s complicated. Data from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment shows that Eagle County’s workforce participation rate remains near a historically high level at 78% (pre-pandemic levels were 81%). This shows that our community is still participating in the labor force, yet we have two open jobs for every unemployed person.
The challenge? We have lost thousands of people from the workforce — they’ve either moved away or they have left due to issues around child care or other factors. Workforce and related issues remain paramount to our continued resiliency and community sustainability.
Consider immigration policy: It’s complicated. A recent court ruling makes it all the more urgent that Congress swiftly pass a legislative solution to provide Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship, end the limbo they have been living with for years and provide a huge economic benefit to the United States. Recent polling shows that 74% of likely voters, including most independents, Republicans and Democrats, support this legislation. Yet, we remain stalled at a federal level.
Consider early-childhood care: It’s complicated. Early-childhood care and education for every child is critical to Colorado’s future. Research from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child confirms that significant and critical brain development occurs by year 5 and that stable nurturing environments ensure productive, secure young people who rely less on social services in their later years.
Evidence from the Colorado Children’s Campaign suggests that for every dollar spent in the Colorado early care and education sector, $2.25 is contributed to the state’s economy — and for every job created in the child care sector, 1.5 jobs are created in the state’s economy. A robust child care ecosystem is good for kids and the economy.
Consider workforce housing efforts: It’s complicated. The community is taking steps toward addressing housing, but for every step forward (thanks, Eagle County) we take a step backward with denials and delays of workforce housing proposals. Housing availability and accessibility remain foundational issues that must be addressed.
So, anyway, how are you doing? If you’re “good,” I’m glad to hear it. If you’re “busy,” recognize that everyone is busy. In reality, from the workforce to child care, from housing to immigration, from COVID to mudslides, it’s complicated.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com.