Scott Ford: What is our greatest economic asset? |

Scott Ford: What is our greatest economic asset?

Economies are dynamic and are always undergoing change. The economy of Steamboat Springs is no exception.

Prior to 1960, the local economy could best be characterized as being driven by activities associated with agriculture/mining. The development of the ski area was the catalyst for a transition to an economy dominated by activities associated with tourism.

There is always tension when an economy begins to transition. The once dominant economic sector often reacts to the change negatively because they think they are losing their influence. How many of us recall the bumper sticker that read, “MORE COWS NOT CONDOS?”

Tourism did not diminish the role of agriculture. Income from agriculture in Routt County when adjusted for inflation is about the same size it was back in 1970. The tourism industry was smart because it significantly leveraged to its advantage the western ranching heritage built by the agriculture community.

Over the last 15-plus years the economy of Steamboat has been undergoing another transition. The local economy is shifting from one dominated by activities associated with tourism to one that is based on the abundance of amenities. The arrival of broadband to Steamboat is the catalyst for the shift that is occurring.

Broadband is allowing an increasing number of individuals to live where they want regardless of where they derive their income. They are drawn to this area because of a broad spectrum of physical, social and cultural amenities, many of which were built as a result of tourism. Essentially, we live in the “house” that tourism built.

The debate surrounding 2A and the need to subsidize air service reflected the tension associated with a transition from a tourism to an amenity-based economy. This was a healthy debate to have because it brought into sharp focus what Steamboat’s greatest economic asset is.

Our greatest economic asset is no longer simply tourists coming to the area to enjoy everything it has to offer for a few days and spend money. Steamboat’s greatest economic asset is first and foremost being a great place to live. Great places to live are often wonderful places to visit.

If we keep this in mind, the economy of Steamboat will not only survive but it will thrive.

Scott L. Ford

Steamboat Springs

(Although I am a member of City Council, my opinions are my own and may not reflect those of my fellow members.)

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