Brower: To be part of the ‘Sacrifice Zone’
May 23, 2017
I would heartily agree that perhaps the biggest problem most local businesses have (with some exceptions) is that our market is too small.
Which is to say we don't get enough business (except for those two weeks at Christmas and that week around Fourth of July).
Even so, do we really want to become part of the Sacrifice Zone?
The Sacrifice Zone is a concept dreamed up by journalistic friends of mine from the past. One is deceased (Ed Quillen) and the other still writes the Mountain Town News (Allen Best).
A sacrifice zone is an area or region that people give up on and leave to its unsavory fate because they know that in leaving that region to the wolves, other regions will retain their pristine and idyllic qualities that have been lost in the sacrifice zone.
The Sacrifice Zone Quillen, Best and now I refer to is the I-70 corridor where it passes through the mountains. It's a region that the true lovers of mountain life and the avid advocates of pure mountain living have given up on and sacrificed to the voracious gods of a runaway tourist economy. In doing so, the true lovers of mountain life believe, they are in a sense insulating themselves and their regions from the ravages of this voracious, runaway tourist economy.
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The thinking goes that, yes, Granby may be a struggling mountain town with no fancy wine bars, boutique furniture stores selling vintage antlers of endangered species and high end condos that rent for $800 a night, but at least we are "real," "authentic" and we still have the true mountain life where hordes of aimless tourists aren't clogging up the intersections, driving up the price of coffee and demanding things like Kombucha.
No sirree, at least we are authentic. And, well, poor.
Which is why I have many times entertained the idea that it might not be such a bad idea from a purely economic perspective if we weren't at least more of a sacrifice zone. Because while those business people along the I-70 Sacrifice Zone are stressing out over tons of tourists and fretting over the views they've lost to urban-mountain-condo sprawl, they do have money to put in the bank. Sometimes lots of it.
Many times I think that might not be such a bad problem to have.
But if we had that problem, then we wouldn't really be Grand County at all. At least not the wild, explore-able, drive-able, hike-able, fishable, skiable-without-crowds county we've come to know and love. We'd be an extension — a sacrifice zone sprawl, if you will — of that I-70 sprawl, but now it would just be I-70-like sprawl but along Highway 40.
This could happen. We could build a new tunnel connection the Front Range to Grand County and we'd see it happen. Real estate values would explode, businesses would boom and the tourists and others would come here in droves because this is a really nice place right now, it's just harder to get to than, say, the I-70 corridor.
But each time I think about this scenario, even though I might get a little richer, I back off. I realize that's really not what I want. I think what I really want here is Sacrifice Zone Lite. That could be achieved with regular and reliable commuter rail service to Denver, or through expanded and better airports, or through a new and improved Berthoud Pass (again).
I think most of us in Grand County would prefer not to be a true sacrifice zone like those money-grubbers along the I-70 corridor. We want to get a little bit more of the money, without the true cost.
I think I'll take Sacrifice Zone Lite, but sooner rather than later, please.
Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching for anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.