Our View: Looking ahead to 2013 | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Looking ahead to 2013

If 2007 represented the height of the economic bubble here and across the nation, and if 2010 was the lowpoint, then 2012 was when stability seemed to return to Routt County's economy. Here's to 2013 being the year when sustained economic growth puts our communities back on track for long-term prosperity.

If the economic mire of the past five years has taught us anything, it's this: Focus on the things that can be controlled at the local level, and never lose sight of the fact that making Steamboat Springs and Routt County a great place to live will have as significant an impact on our economy as anything else.

But before we look ahead to the coming 12 months, it's worth a short review of the positive economic indicators from the preceding 12 months. Sales tax revenues in the city of Steamboat steadily have outpaced 2011 revenues, and although the percent increase is similar to the rate of inflation, it nonetheless represents stability — if not growing confidence — in people's willingness to spend money in stores and restaurants.

The local real estate market has continued to rebound from the significant crash of the past few years. There are fewer distressed properties on the market, and the number of foreclosure starts, though still high, will finish lower than 2011. Median housing prices also stabilized, and in some cases increased, in 2012.

Local schools, which are perhaps as good an indicator as there is of the health of a community, continue to rank among the best in the state. The Steamboat Springs School District is one of the only districts in the state to have earned the "accredited with distinction" honor from the state in each of the three years the rating system has been in place, and the Steamboat Springs Middle School this year was recognized as a John Irwin School of Excellence for the sixth straight year. Colorado Mountain College, buoyed by a beautiful new building that anchors its Steamboat campus, now is offering four-year degrees in a couple of areas and boasts a facility that can help erase the "See Me Ski" perception still held by some.

During the past year we've emphasized the need to improve transportation and technology infrastructure, not only for improved quality of life for those of us already here, but as a means of attracting new residents and businesses. The recent launch of 4G LTE service on Verizon Wireless and AT&T networks is a significant step in the right direction. And while time will tell the long-term availability of affordable airplane seats into Yampa Valley Regional Airport, it was important that the community passed a 0.25 percent sales tax that took effect in 2012 to help keep more incoming seats arriving at YVRA each winter.

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Accessibility to quality health care is key to a vibrant community, and Routt County long has benefited from the presence of Yampa Valley Medical Center and its extended medical campus. Now, with construction of the Casey's Pond Senior Living community well under way, Steamboat Springs can look forward to a top-notch independent and assisted living facility for elder care.

With so many good things happening in our community, it's as important as ever that our leaders, elected and otherwise, continue to stay the course that has set us on this path forward. The responsible expenditure of taxpayer money remains key to our economic health. And to that end, we need our leaders to continue to focus not only on the things that make our communities great, but on the things that are needed to make our communities better. Doing so improves the lives of existing residents and businesses while also paving the path for future economic growth.