A good year

In 2012, Durango earns strong report card

Despite a brutal election cycle, lingering concerns about “these tough economic times,” and weather patterns that prompted an alarmingly active fire season, conditions in Durango in 2012 were remarkably positive.

As a community that draws a significant portion of its financial health from those who visit the region and spend money here, Durango’s sales-tax numbers show that the anemic days of the recession receded somewhat for the year, with at least a 5 percent increase in revenues compared with 2011. That suggests that both visitors and locals were doing a bit better this year than last, and in spending more, they increase local governments’ ability to fund projects and services important to residents.

One of those projects was the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, a much-hyped event that drew investment from the city – to the tune of $50,000 – as well as countless lesser ponies-up from business owners who prepared for the never-to-arrive promised hordes of 25,000. Despite the crowd that was not to be, though, the event was great fun, and we gave ourselves a very good time. Whether it was worth it is a question mostly settled now, but in the golden glow of reminiscing, the race was a top-notch to-do for local cycling enthusiasts and those who visited.

The community’s ability to draw locals and visitors out for various gatherings showed its growing strength in 2012. Oktoberfest, Taste of Durango, Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the return of the Durango Double and the Durango Independent Film Festival are just a few of the iconic events dotting the calendar each year. While some of these might not thrill all downtown merchants, they serve a greater purpose of bringing together the community to experience new artistic, cultural, gastronomical or athletic experiences. That there is often a fundraising component attached to these events adds to their collective positive value. We look forward to more in 2013.

This year has been one of beginnings for longer-term investments in the community. Mercury, after a contentious series of negotiations, finally broke ground on its new facility near the Durango Mall. This project signals the company’s commitment to Durango – and the community should take great pride in this homegrown success that has evolved to be a leading employer and innovator here far beyond.

Mercury CEO Matt Taylor’s business administration degree from Fort Lewis College is a testament to that institution’s effectiveness and importance to the community. In 2012, FLC’s enrollment increased 1.5 percent compared with the previous year – a welcome sign in times of waning numbers for colleges and universities.

Though there was much good in 2012, it was not all so rosy. A very dry, hot beginning to the summer, reminiscent of a decade earlier when Missionary Ridge Fire blazed out of control across more than 70,000 acres, brought about a lackluster year for the agricultural community and a frightening fire season. Fortunately, though, the close-in fires that erupted at Lightner Creek and X-Rock were quickly contained, and no structures or lives were lost. The Weber Fire near Mancos exceeded 10,000 acres, but damaged just one structure. Things could have been far worse.

Largely, 2012 reminds us that despite challenges our community faces, and we each face individually, we rise to meet these challenges with creativity, energy and optimism.