As Richard Wobbekind stood in front of a crowd of about 60 residents Monday, he asked them “is the light at the end of the tunnel a train coming toward us, or is the light at the end of the tunnel actually a beautiful Colorado sky?”
The economy, which Wobbekind referred to as the dark tunnel, was the subject of his Money Matters presentation at the Moffat County High School Auditorium. In the presentation, he covered the current economic climate from a global level to Moffat County, where the recession currently stood and what the contributing factors were that led the economy to the point it is today.
Wobbekind, an associate professor at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado at Boulder, started his presentation discussing the factors that led up to the economic decline on the federal level such as the housing slump, tight credit markets and a consumer confidence crisis.
Wobbekind then related how the federal issues translated to a state level. He said the federal economy has a greater impact on state economy that some would think.
He pointed to Colorado’s unemployment, which currently hovers at 7.7 percent, and lines at the unemployment office being “unlike anything that I have ever seen.”
The energy sector, which has helped Colorado’s economy fare better than other parts of the nation, he said, also has strengthened Moffat County’s economy, which relies heavily on the industry.
“The take home point is that even though you have seen a significant slow down in the economy and a high unemployment rate, in many ways (the Moffat County) economy is more stable than the rest of the state,” he said after the presentation.
He said Moffat County’s economy is “better performing” than other economies of the state.
“What you have experienced in the last year, although it might seem dramatic locally, is probably a lot less dramatic than what the rest of the state has seen,” he said.
He said that what has made the Moffat County economy strong is the natural resources industry that is always in demand and that Moffat County also has a strongly diversified economy.
He pointed to the fact that the economy and certain industries perform in cycles and having a diversified economy prevents those cycles from dipping at the same time, which would lead to even more decline in economic activity.
Moffat County, Wobbekind said, had a strong growth in population in the past decade. The growth has kept up with job availability, for the most part, despite average wages and building permit applications being lower than the Colorado average in 2008, both signs of local economy.
Moffat County also has better foreclosure rates than other counties, he said.
The economy of the Western Slope as a whole, Wobbekind said, went into a recession about seven months after the federal economy. As a result, he said residents may see the economy crawl out of recession later than the rest of the country.
But he remains hopeful for the national economic future.
Wobbekind said after his presentation that his two to three year outlook on the nation’s economy as a whole is a positive one.
Brian Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.