In 2003, I made my first trip to Durango with then boyfriend and now husband, Bobby. He had been coming to Durango since 1993 and couldn’t wait to show me this rugged mountainous beauty and historic town. I taught him how to ski at Purgatory, and he taught me to dream of living here.
The Durango/Silverton area has beckoned to us over the years as we came back to ski in the winter and mountain bike and hike in the summer. Now we have finally made the move, like so many millions of people in America who are reshuffling to find a legacy worth leaving behind.
According to the U.S. Labor Statistics, more than 4 million Americans a month have been quitting their jobs since August 2021. In myriad articles around the country we are finding out what is motivating this trend, from burnout and the pandemic to deep dissatisfaction in jobs that reduce the workforce to cogs in a corporate wheel. However, 32% of these fellow Americans who just left their jobs are starting their own business, according to Digital.com. Just like what we saw as a nation after the Great Recession, a number of people are returning to the American dream of owning their own business and being their own boss.
The self-sustaining spirit and determination of residents of the La Plata County area are a pioneering combination for independent business owners. As businesses and residents in Durango reshuffle as well, we are seeing the need for business succession plans that keep our businesses local and monopolies at bay.
Keeping locally owned businesses and building self-reliance as a community means we have to be mindful of what businesses need in order to be successful. Addressing health care, affordable housing, a living wage and building local power are some of the top priorities of independent business in Durango.
I am honored and enthused to be working at an organization that strives to understand the nuances that impact shared community wealth and the cross-section of business and natural resource conservation. In the wake of a national reshuffle and an eco- and astro tourism boom, Durango is well-positioned to be a resilient community that values sense-of-place.
I would like to expand on these two tourism trends that are connected to health care and energy and have a major economic impact on area business. Eco-tourism is nature-based and part of a growing focal point in mental health. Our neighbors in Canada have determined that doctors can recommend more time for citizens in nature by writing prescriptions of free one-year visits to national parks. Given that the Milky Way is estimated to no longer be visible to one-third of humanity – including 80% of Americans – the growth of astro-tourism is no surprise. Light pollution affects everything from greenhouse gas emissions, wildlife migratory and breeding patterns, to human health, crime and even nighttime driving conditions. It is also the easiest form of pollution to reverse. Not only are Durango’s dark skies worth protecting and admiring, but there can also be significant energy and cost savings to businesses that incorporate dark sky lighting.
When eating lunch over the holidays with my family at Carver Brewing Co., I took in all the hustle and bustle. Patrons behind us who were visiting for the season were as equally grateful as we were for the freshly baked chocolate cookies that were being handed out to everyone as warm treats. I overheard them say that they were enjoying their time in the area and that given the geographical location of Durango, people who live here must really want to be here. I smiled to myself. It was true. We really do. And I beamed with pride at finally being a local.
Sarah Tober is executive director of Local First Foundation.