By Lance Gurwell
<br> Economic recovery or another recession ? it depends on who you ask.
<br> It?s possible the local and national economy could be taking another trip backwards, said Rocky Scott, president of the Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
<br> Calling it a ?double-dip? recession, Scott?s comments to members of the EDC differed from those just a day later by the federal government, predicting the economy has shifted gears and is moving forward.
<br> That?s not to say Scott?s forecast is wrong, as it is largely based on what is happening in El Paso County and Colorado.
<br> For example, rankings show Colorado now rates number 17 for business climate, down from ninth place a year ago. Locally, more than 4,700 people lost jobs in the past year, and about 80 percent of those are from the higher-paying technology sector.
<br> Naturally, Scott said, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 hit Colorado Springs hard, especially in tourism.
<br> ?The year 2001 began with the pessimistic expectation that a recession was right around the corner,? Scott said. But, he added, there were also hopeful signs for the economy prior to Sept. 11.
<br> However, ?after 9-11, our teetering economy fell into decline and our economic situation was no longer ambiguous,? said Scott.
<br> Scott?s uncharacteristic pessimism is based on decisions by local businesses to increase production in anticipation of the end of the recession ? which, locally, doesn?t arrive on schedule. His message, pragmatic if not pessimistic, sets a very cautious tone for the local economy.
<br> Federal prognosticators see a prettier picture.
<br> ?The economy has turned a corner and is recovering,? said economist Clifford Waldman of Wald-man Associates. ?The only issue is the strength of that recovery.?
<br> Nationally, the number of lost jobs fell to its lowest number in six months, something the Department of Labor considers a good barometer of the national economy.
<br> Locally, however, city sales tax collections fell more than four percent in December, compared to the same period a year ago. Home construction dropped last year, despite some of the lowest interest rates in years ? thanks in part to the Federal Reserve dropping interest rates a record 11 times in less than a year.
<br> But all the news wasn?t gloomy, Scott said.
<br> In November, the Milken Institute of Los Angeles ranked Colorado third in ?preparedness for new economic growth,? behind Massachusetts and California. The findings are based on research and development spending, new businesses and initial public offerings.
<br> Additionally, Federal Express opened its Rocky Mountain Technology Center in October and employs 600 people, gasoline prices remained low after hitting record prices in June, and the city saw the completion of its first downtown high-rise in a decade, with completion of Nor?wood?s south tower at Plaza of the Rockies.
<br> Additionally, three new airlines started flying out of Colorado Springs, and the Powers Boulevard retail corridor continues to grow, Scott said.
<br> ?Our region has special assets which should give it an advantage in business placement, and hence, economic recovery,? Scott said. ?There is good, sound reason for optimism, but not for complacency.?
By Lance Gurwell