A time to differ, a time for thanks


A glance at monthly sales tax reports for Archuleta County reveals a couple of things quite clearly, and directs us to a moment of recognition and appreciation.

The December 2012 report (the most recent issued) makes clear what the major tax revenue sources are in Pagosa Country. The largest economic element in the county is retail trade, which accounts for nearly as much sales tax revenue as all other sectors combined.

Second on the list of sources is accommodation and food services — considerably behind in terms of the amount of tax revenue produced. Revenue from utility companies falls in third place.

Far down the list, at around a tenth the volume of retail trade, is the manufacturing sector. Revenues from elements such as the information industry, construction, and agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, fall still further behind.

What is obvious is the fact our local economy is dependent on non-productive, often service-oriented business. Further, we confidently assume much of the revenue generated by the retail sector comes from grocery and gas sales. A significant amount of the money flowing to outlets in a community with as large a retired population as ours, likely comes from non-employment sources such as Social Security, investment profits and other government and private benefits. Surely, a meaningful percentage of the revenues results from spending by visitors.

When we consider the accommodation and food services sector, we amp up the contribution of tourists — one of the major groups patronizing local food and lodging establishments.

The simplified picture is something most of us know: the health of Pagosa Country’s economy hinges on the flow of visitors to the area and, thus, on the health of the economy elsewhere.

We can do nothing about the economy in other parts of Colorado, in Texas, Oklahoma or California. Pagosa is not a player in the big-ticket tourist market — one dominated by Aspen, Vail, Telluride, etc. – a market that tends to vary less with perturbations in the national economy.

We have to battle constantly to attract new tourists and induce visitors to return. We are not going to add a great deal to our economic foundation by attracting small manufacturing firms to the area, though any and all are certainly, warmly welcomed. We need tourists.

And this brings us to recognition and appreciation.

In this case, these extend to the Town Tourism Committee.

When emphasis is narrowed to only the proposed Reservoir Hill amenities project, it is easy to condemn the TTC and forget the group’s overall aim.

While we have serious reservations about the role of government-appointed citizen committees with a relatively unchecked ability to spend public funds, if we dwell solely on this concern, a greater point is missed.

The Town Tourism Committee is a group of volunteers — most involved in business ventures that depend heavily on tourism, all with an honorable desire to promote Pagosa Country. While we will argue with certain of their ideas, we recognize that TTC members give of their time and energies due to legitimate concern for the economic health of the community. They, as much or more than anyone, know how much Pagosa depends on tourism, and they are committed to growing the industry. Agree or not with certain ideas and processes, a measure of gratitude is due our neighbors who participate on the TTC. Because we disagree, we are not enemies; disagreement does not preclude appreciation. We owe them thanks at the same time we advance our arguments and, in some cases, oppose their ideas. They have stepped up in order to bolster the most essential element in our economic life and future.

Karl Isberg