Economic summit looks at changing demographics
According to the Colorado Demography Office, between the years 2000 and 2010, the population of Coloradans ages 55 to 64 will grow at a rate of 5.9 percent annually. The state’s population as a whole will grow at an annual rate of just 1.7 percent.
In a speech Wednesday at the Economic Summit of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, former Colorado Demography Office director Jim Westkott told local business and nonprofit officials that this influx of aging baby boomers will have a drastic effect on communities that rely heavily on tourism.
The summit continues today at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel and Conference Center.
This influx of senior citizens, Westkott said, will not mean communities need to build more nursing homes. Instead, communities will need to expand things such as bike paths, preferably before their senior citizen population climbs.
“The (55 to 64 year olds) that are here now are healthy and active,” Westkott said after his speech. “Walking is the No. 1 outdoor recreation activity for this age group.”
Westkott said tourism-reliant economies also will see a population spike in the near future because technology will allow more people to live in tourist destinations and work straight from their computers.
More “location-neutral” workers could mean more second homes, Westkott said, which could mean rising property values near Steamboat.
Rising property values near Steamboat could mean a rising population in Craig.
“There will be more people who want to live here but can’t afford Steamboat,” Westkott said.
Noreen Moore, business resource director for Routt County and Steamboat and summit organizer, said the summit is trying to look at community assets and why they are important for their economies.
“Sometimes we get the feeling that talking about our community will kill it,” she said.
Understanding the region’s communities is important because people don’t just come to Northwest Colorado for the landscape, Moore said.
“In addition to the beauty, we’re attached to the community,” she said.
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