Community Indicators – Economic

Our Vision

Yampa Valley citizens, businesses, organizations and local government agencies nurture a diverse local economy that supports the basic needs of our community. The people of the Yampa Valley work toward a healthy year-round economic base that thrives through planned business development, technological innovations and infrastructure, and ensures an affordable cost of living to people with a variety of income levels. The Community Indicator Report 2009 2010 now includes our ‘White River Valley’ neighbors in Rio Blanco County.


Key Findings

§  The northwest Colorado counties of Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco are each impacted by the diversity of economic activity occurring in this region. Routt’s growth is driven by visitors and an increasing number of people moving to the area for a lifestyle rich in natural, recreational and cultural amenities. Rio Blanco is being fueled by development of its abundant energy resources. Sandwiched in between these two counties, Moffat will experience impacts as a result of the expanding economies of its neighbors. These forces will impact workforce, housing, transportation, health care, schools and social services.

§  Northwest Colorado’s economic interdependence is illustrated by the import and export of wages between the counties that occurs when workers live in one county and work in another. Residents in Moffat County imported $62 million in wages into their county in 2006 much of which came from working for employers in Routt and Rio Blanco counties.

§  A greater number of industry sectors are employing more workers as the region diversifies. Northwest Colorado’s small population and low unemployment encourages workers to seek employment outside their home county. Workers may not possess the appropriate skills necessary to fill jobs within their own county. This impacts transportation and other workforce issues as well as offers vocational and higher education opportunities.

§  The unemployment rate for Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties consistently remains below the state average. Residents ofMoffat County will continue to meet the demand for labor in both Routt and Rio Blanco counties. This impacts transportation, housing and other workforce issues.

§  The attractiveness of northwest Colorado as a place to live, work and play has created a residential/lifestyle economy comprised of people who move to the area to enjoy its natural beauty and recreational and cultural amenities. An increasing number of these full- and part-time residents are not dependent on economic activity occurring within the region to make their living. This group has become an economic driver, broadening and diversifying the local economy by bringing new income sources and job opportunities into the Yampa Valley. They also compete for the resources of land and housing.

§  Personal income from non-labor sources is trending upward in Routt County while remaining stable in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. The growth of non-labor source income is an indicator of the growth of the residential/lifestyle economy associated with retirees, location neutral businesses, location neutral employees and other individuals who have sufficient economic means to live in the area. This is a national economic trend that is occurring in many resort/lifestyle communities.

§  Agriculture’s share of Routt County’s total personal income has gone from almost 5% in 1970 to less than a half of one percent as other segments of the economy have grown. Although its share as a percentage of overall personal income has declined, agriculture as an economic sector in all three counties has been relatively stable for the past 35 years.

§  Improvements in air transportation and broadband telecommunications have improved all business capabilities and also make it possible for “Location Neutral Businesses” and “Location Neutral Employees” to exist and thrive. Although not as visible as storefronts or industrial sites, growth of location neutral businesses and location neutral employees contribute to regional economic diversification.


Northwest Colorado’s economy is made up of many different sectors. While no single indicator is sufficient to describe our overall economy, when pieced together, they demonstrate the increasing interdependence between Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. Although each of the three counties has different economic drivers, there is a shared demand for workforce that impacts housing, transportation and other infrastructure needs.

Wherever possible the economic indicators in this report have been expanded to include data for all three northwestColorado counties. Rio Blanco County Commissioner Ken Parsons says that including this data will provide a more complete view of the northwest corner of the state. “Users will be able to better compare the three-county area in general and on specific measures to obtain a more accurate picture of what is going on in our region and within each county.”

Population growth, improved infrastructure and additional amenities continue to spur diversification. The visitor economy and the growing residential/lifestyle economy will continue to be economic drivers in Routt County. These two economies are intertwined and both are dependent on many of the same community assets ranging from its natural beauty to abundant recreation and cultural opportunities.

Development and extraction of energy-related natural resources will be an economic driver in Rio Blanco County. Moffat, situated between Routt and Rio Blanco, will increasingly feel the impacts from both counties’ expanding economies.