The mood on Main St. as midterm elections loom
Eagle, Colorado, a town struggling to surmount recession, offers a window into why America seems so sullen heading into what could be a hinge moment in politics.
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"Some of the former members were upset when the city first bought the course," says Matt Hanson, the general manager. "They wanted their fees back. But eventually it became accepted. What else was there?Skip to next paragraph
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"We are meeting our goals now, in terms of golfers. The costs now make more sense. People are reevaluating their lifestyle. The recession has taught everyone a little bit about how to manage their money, I think."
It's also led to some new career paths. A few years ago Chris Harvey, the son of HI Cranes owner Kurt Harvey, was working for his dad and preparing to join the family business. Now, at 23, he's a manager at the Big Valley Steakhouse in Gypsum Creek's clubhouse. "I've kind of veered away from construction," he says. "I never would have thought of doing this before, but I like managerial work. I like working here."
Many people in Eagle are likely going to be veering in the next few years, trying different jobs and careers, looking for a new way. Chris Romer, executive of the Vail Valley Partnership, a local business group, says the future for the area and a lot of people is clear – more tourism. He recently wrote an op-ed in the Vail Daily, the local newspaper, headlined "Let's place travel and tourism at the forefront of Eagle County's economic recovery." Mr. Romer is an organizer and a booster who clearly loves Eagle and the Vail Valley and he wants to be optimistic. Tourism can fill the hotels and if the appeal is done wisely the area can become a major year-round tourist stop, he wrote.
But as he prepared for a Partnership event, Romer said he, too, felt that changes in Eagle were about more than just a "recovery." Something larger is going on, and it will be hard to replace those good-paying construction jobs.
"Will it ever be what it was – at the pre-2008 level? Not in the next five to seven years," he says, and then smiles. "Maybe more. The truth is who really knows? There are larger things going on here. Global things I cannot pretend to understand."
And that, in a microcosm, is what's behind much of the national mood heading into the fall of 2010. It's not just the uncertainty of what's next; it's the difficulty of even understanding what went wrong and how to correct it. Americans who take such pride in controlling their fates and deciding their destinies are feeling that they are being buffeted by forces beyond their control and comprehension.
Does that mean another "malaise" moment? Maybe. But in Eagle and in other communities around the country that I regularly visit, it feels more like a period of adjustment. And for some here, the boom-bust of the recent past holds valuable lessons.
True, the pre-2008 world did have its benefits. People had bigger homes. They had bigger jobs. They had bigger lives. But viewed from 2010, it all looks a bit excessive to some.
Susan Balcomb, sitting outside the Dusty Boot, shakes her head. She is a financial "coach" now, a growth area in hard times. Long term, she sees positive things coming out of the nation's period of uncertainty – better attitudes about debt and money and the future. "We will never have what we had before," she says. "But we shouldn't get what we had. That was just greed."
Around her, the mountains loom on all sides. The dun-colored foothills rise gently out of the valley floor, giving way to a more abrupt geology at higher elevations, capped in conifer green.
It is a vista made for inspiration. For Eagle, it is a constant in hard times – a reminder that there are some things that can't be taken away, a symbol of hope, perhaps, for better days.