Club 20, a Western Slope advocacy group, is pushing the state legislature to address a region that it argues the recovery is increasingly leaving behind.
“As we look at our economy, we don’t have as many of the drivers as in the east,” said Club 20 chairman Steve Reynolds on Friday.
Mines are closing, drilling rigs have shifted their focus elsewhere, and home construction remains hobbled. And while tourism has rebounded, Reynolds said the industry’s wages per worker are a fraction of those in natural resources and construction.
Unlike the state’s northeastern counties, which threatened secession over such cultural issues as gun control and civil unions for gays, western counties will pursue more traditional routes to see that their primarily economic concerns are dealt with, he said.
Club 20 has made a list of the top 10 issues for 2014, which includes usual suspects such as funding for education, capital improvements and roads, but also some newer ones.
Access to affordable broadband services in the region has become a more pressing issue. The group wants the Colorado High Cost Support Mechanism to be revamped to boost broadband access rather than to be phased out.
Club 20 and other business groups are concerned that an endangered-species designation for the sage grouse could hamper development in the region and are supporting a bill that seeks to give the state a greater say in federal decisions.
Wide disparities in health-care premiums have become more of a problem since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Health-care premiums for Grand Junction residents are running about 70 percent higher than they are for Denver residents, Reynolds said. And they are an additional 70 percent higher in Glenwood Springs, his hometown, than they are in Grand Junction.
Water, a perennial concern, could reach crisis levels in the years ahead. Club 20 is concerned not only that Front Range interests will try to shift more water their way but that drought-stricken states along the Colorado River will enforce their claims to the vital resource.
To address unemployment and promote diversification, Club 20 also wants the state’s economic-development office to establish a permanent presence on the Western Slope.
Aldo Svaldi: 303-954-1410, asvaldi@ denverpost.com or twitter.com/aldosvaldi