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EDITORIAL: Springs may be on verge of economic rebound

By: The Gazette editorial
January 10, 2014 Updated: January 12, 2014 at 10:20 am

All should hope for more headlines similar to those carried this week in The Gazette's business section. A sampling:

  • "Colorado Springs-area jobless rate falls to five-year low"
  • "Colorado Springs-area car sales hit eight-year high despite slow December"
  • "Colorado Springs home sales for 2013 hit highest level in seven years"

Americans have endured a protracted and painful recession. Bad federal policies—most notably the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—have slowed recovery. Yet, a few key economic indicators look good locally and should serve as incentive to consider new investments in the community's future.

A decline in the local jobless rate ranks among the more important of trends, as people without jobs have a hard time buying houses, cars or much of anything else. Unemployment puts additional demand on governments, simultaneously reducing the number of people who fund government.

The metro area's 7.8 percent jobless rate still has a long way to go before returning to the 4 percent Colorado Springs enjoyed in February 2007. But after four consecutive months of decline, the jobless rate is the lowest since January 2009. It's progress.

New-vehicle registrations in El Paso County reached 23,797, nearly a 7 percent increase from 2012 and the highest total since 2005. Much of the increase can be attributed to pent-up demand, as tolerance for aging, high-mileage cars has limits. The increased sales, for whatever reason, increase velocity of capital and sales tax receipts within our market.

Auto dealers report a trend of consumers seeking smaller, more fuel-efficient cars to counter fuel prices that remain in excess of $3 a gallon. A trend toward efficient vehicles lowers demand on fuel, which stands to lower prices. Less consumption of fuel can leave consumers with more discretionary income.

In the local housing market, sales of single-family homes, which doesn't include townhomes and condos, rose nearly 18 percent over 2012 with 10,786 units sold. It's the most since 11,911 single-family homes sold in 2006.

"Real estate agents have pointed to a better local economy, low mortgage rates and a pent-up demand on the part of buyers," explained a Gazette business story.

With demand on the rise throughout most of 2013, the median price for homes sold in the metro area rose to $215,900 —a respectable 7.4 percent increase over 2012.

News of last year's local market momentum comes shortly after the Colorado Economic Development Commission saw so much promise in Colorado Springs that it chose to invest $120.5 million, in the form of tax rebates, to help fund new tourist attractions. The state will invest in City for Champions, which proposes a one-of-a-kind Olympics museum, a state-of-the-art sports medicine center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, a new visitor's center for the United States Air Force Academy and a multiuse stadium and arena in a blighted section of downtown. All will bring tourists and their money to the region, causing economic growth for the benefit of permanent residents.

Our economy's new momentum, combined with state government's investment, creates the potential for economic symmetry few communities could dream. Colorado Springs could quickly become a national model for successful economic development and return to its glory days as a prime tourist destination.

This community cannot grow without investing in its future. The people who live and work here cannot prosper, and improve their lives, by conducting business as usual and merely shifting money around within the economy.

Rare opportunity has come our way, perhaps at just the right time. Let's get busy capitalizing on a possible economic rebound and substantial chunk of state tax relief.

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