Published: February 19, 2014
For the most part, speaker after speaker at Wednesday's 2nd annual Teller County Economic Forecast Breakfast spoke optimistically about the county's future.
Many showed PowerPoint presentations illustrating a recent "uptick" after the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008. Officials from government and the real estate and construction industries pointed to increased housing sales and other indicators they said show 2014 could be the beginning of something big.
But keynote speaker Brad Spivey, a vice president with Park State Bank & Trust, spun a more cautious tale. He pointed to a barrage of post-Recession federal aid and stimulus initiatives and compared them to a "morphine drip" for a badly injured patient. He said once the morphine is cut off, the patient doesn't simply jump up and take off running. Spivey said the economy will "have to use a wheelchair for a couple of years."
"It's been a long six or seven years," he said to the gathering of about 60 people. "Stabilization is going to be bumpy."
Spivey, Teller County Assessor Betty Clark-Wine and other speakers hope that increased housing sales will provide that "wheelchair." Clark-Wine and area Realtors Sharon Roshek and Barbara Asbury said there have been upward trends in land and home sales in four Teller County markets since they hit bottom in 2009.
Brian Fleer, director of the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority, said projects like the new Charis Bible College that opened in January in western Woodland Park and a 168-unit apartment complex that is expected to open in the eastern part of town in June could help bring home buyers to the area.
He also noted that Woodland Park is being aggressive in trying to boost the economy and attract businesses and transplants to the county. Teller County's largest town, with 7,500 people, is in the process of applying to become part of the state's Main Street Program and a Creative Arts District. Both would open doors for incentives to encourage growth and a sense of community in downtown.
While officials from Cripple Creek and Victor each reported Wednesday that 2013 floods and closures of U.S. 24 hurt their economies, they expect a slight turnaround in 2014. The gaming industry took a 5 percent dip in revenue last year.
Multiple speakers said more growth will lead to more projects and more projects will lead to more growth in Teller County. Woodland Park Hardware is set to open a larger store in March, and national chain Tractor Supply Company is getting ready to break ground north of downtown. Even without those projects, the area has had four years of increased sales tax, which point to a strong economic future for Woodland Park and the county, said City Manager David Buttery.
"I'm optimistic," Buttery said.
Woodland Park officials and others, including Dale Schnitker of Vectra Bank, said the new projects will help Teller County residents become less dependent on Colorado Springs businesses.
"County residents are hoping that everything they need in their whole life is up the hill," Schnitker said.