Colorado's economy took center stage during Saturday's Club 20 meeting. While the Western Slope political action group discussed the harsh realities Colorado is currently facing, speakers said they're seeing signs that things may be turning around.
From banks and budgets to housing and stimulus dollars, leaders from across Colorado came to Grand Junction Saturday to talk economy. But unlike most discussions about the economy these days, officials say there was more to talk about than just doom and gloom.
"We think it's slowly improving," said Don Childears, President of the Colorado Banker's Association. "We think we're basically at the bottom."
Childears says while the bad news is still far from over --
"We'll still see increases in unemployment," said Childears.
-- there are good things on the horizon. He says even while they face the slowdown, Colorado banks are still pumping out loans.
"Year end '08 loan volume over year end '07 was actually up twelve percent," said Childears.
Leaders say that's not the only glimmer of hope for the state's economic future. Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher says millions of federal stimulus dollars are already going to work.
"We're already going to see four-hundred to five-hundred million dollars worth of road construction projects," said Buescher. "Most of those have already been bid, and some of those bids have already been accepted."
Buescher is part of the 12 person Colorado Economic Recovery Accountability Board that oversees how stimulus dollars are being used.
"Our job is to make sure they do what they're intended to do," said Buescher.
He says with the state's commitment to making sure dollars are being spent wisely, he's confident they will play a big role in the near future to boost the economy and create new jobs.
"We will see real road construction starting probably within sixty days," said Buescher. "And that creates real jobs."
Leaders say things won't change overnight --
"The other areas won't roll out as quickly," said Buescher.
-- but the end of 2009 will be better than the beginning.
"We will see some good, positive improvement is the consensus in the banking industry," said Childears. "And it'll be in the third and fourth quarter of this year."