Across the Divide: A Tale of Two Economies
Sometimes, familiar things look different when seen through another set of eyes–and an economic recovery viewed from the Front Range looks different seen from the Western Slope point of view. Region 10 brought the Western Slope’s viewpoint into focus recently, at a presentation to the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) and other agencies in Denver.
“They asked us to talk about how our recovery looks, compared to the recovery statewide,” Region 10 Executive Director Michelle Haynes said. “We focused on the West Central region (Montrose, Delta, Ouray, San Miguel, Gunnison and Hinsdale counties), but our presentation was relevant to the whole Western Slope.”
“Michelle did a wonderful job comparing Region 10 to the rest of the state and the nation,” Colorado State Demographer Elizabeth Garner said. “Her presentation highlighted the fact that the recovery that the Front Range has experienced has been disparate.
“She focused on some of the constraints on the West Slope and Region 10’s plans to move the Region forward,” Garner said. “Many attendees found the information enlightening as they don’t often think about conditions outside of the Front Range.”
The presentation, entitled “Across the Divide, a Tale of Two Economies,” compares the median age of Region 10 residents (43.4) to that of residents of Colorado as a whole (36.4); median income of Region 10 households ($46,143) to that of households statewide ($56,765); and unemployment rates in Region 10 (7.7 percent) and statewide (4.8 percent). One statistic that is higher here on the Western Slope is poverty–15.9 percent of those in Region 10 live at or below poverty levels, while statewide the percentage is 12.9 percent. Median educational attainment statistics here in Region 10 show that 29.8 percent of residents have earned a Bachelor’s degree or higher, while statewide the percentage of individuals with a Bachelor’s degree or higher is 37.5.
The presentation also examined distribution of population among Western Slope counties; diversity within the six counties served by Region 10; Region 10 jobs and wages; and key economic indicators. Challenges to the region’s economic recovery are reviewed, as are strategies for recovery.
Perhaps most telling is chart that depicts both Colorado’s status as the nation’s fourth fastest growing population center, with a 4.96 percent increase between 2010 and 2013. During those same years, however, Region 10 saw a 0.53 percent decrease in population.
“It is really important for our state leaders to understand the challenges we face on the Western Slope,” Haynes said. “Legislation impacts us differently here than it does urban areas.”