Sep 052006
 
Authors: HEATHER HAWKINS The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Editor’s note: To remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001, a series of stories will show how the last five years’ events continue to change the community. This is the second of several stories that will run throughout the week.

Five years after 9/11, the Fort Collins economy is still feeling the effects of the terrorist attacks. Although statistics show the economy has been suffering, local merchants say they have rebounded.

Debra Reider, co-owner of Garwood’s Jewelers, said the terrorist attacks had an immediate impact on her business but it didn’t last long.

“We had a great Christmas because people wanted to let loved ones know how important they are,” Reider said. “People didn’t know if they would have another opportunity to do that.”

Business at the family-owned store has been up and down in the years following 9/11, but Reider says she can’t attribute that to anything but normal business.

Reider remains positive even though statistics indicate the Colorado economy hasn’t returned to pre-9/11 status.

Total housing permits are down in Colorado, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Single-family and multi-family permits were down 13 percent from 2001 to 2002 and have not reached the same amount since. Last year there were about 46,000 permits, which is 10,000 less than in 2001.

“People went into shock,” said Eric Nichols, president of the Fort Collins Board of Realtors and a real estate broker with Nichols Street, at Remax Alliance Downtown. “The last thing people wanted to do was buy a house.”

Nichols said Sept. 11 had an immediate impact on development and “everything shut down.”

Some homebuilders didn’t sell a house for four to five weeks, but the effect wasn’t long term. He said real estate was back to normal by the following spring.

Steve Taylor, owner of Austin’s American Grill, said his company also saw considerable changes after the 2001 attacks.

“It was dramatic,” he said. “Our entire company lost significant sales.”

The slowdown lasted eight months for Taylor. He said the restaurant business usually doesn’t feel broad economic impacts for a few months unless layoffs begin happening, but it was different with 9/11.

“We had an immediate hit, and then when it affected the broader economy we got another hit,” he said. “People didn’t have the discretionary money to spend.”

Both Hewlett Packard Co. and Agilent Technologies laid off hundreds of local employees in the months after Sept. 11. Fort Collins unemployment rates jumped from 3 percent to 4.4 percent in the last five years, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. However, that is less than the state unemployment averages of 3.8 percent in 2001 and 5 percent in 2006.

Sarajane Burr, a 2005 CSU graduate, had a hard time finding a job in Fort Collins after she graduated.

“It was kind of difficult because of my experience and my degree,” Burr said. “I don’t want to work at a car wash or a restaurant.”

She has an English degree but found it hard to get a good entry-level job because she didn’t have a lot of experience.

In addition to the shortage of jobs, Fort Collins residents are dealing with inflation.

One year after the attacks, U.S. consumers had to pay an additional $1.58 for every $100 they spent. Today, $100 will buy a consumer the same as $87.03 would have in 2001, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Burr has been conscious of saving money since she was a kid, but 9/11 did impact her thoughts on saving.

“I was a little concerned about the future knowing that the government won’t look after me,” she said. “I need to be more proactive and save.”

Consumers are also digging deep to drive their cars. According to the Energy Information Administration, people were paying $1.61 for a gallon of unleaded gasoline five years ago. Gasoline is now lingering around $2.95 a gallon.

“It took time to settle down and get back to normal,” Nichols said about the rebound of the economy. “But it’s really a testament to the American consumer.”

Staff writer Heather Hawkins can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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