San Juan County bucks the national recession
by Buckley Jensen
With the nation wallowing in the worst housing recession in decades, with thousands of homes nationwide being repossessed and an enormous glut of unsold homes sitting empty, the 2008 story in San Juan County is just the opposite.
In 2007, Monticello City issued 14 permits valued at $822,554. In 2008, with near panic nationally in the housing market, Monticello issued 30 building permits (25 residential – five commercial) valued at $3,657,138, which is a 450 percent increase.
Blanding City issued 35 building permits in 2007, and dropped to 30 in 2008. San Juan County’s building permits dropped from 154 in 2007 to 105 in 2008.
Construction outside the Monticello or Blanding city limits is permitted through the County. The 105 permits issued by the County in 2008 included 18 in the Blanding area, 15 in Spanish Valley, nine in the Monticello area and eight each in Bluff and La Sal. Wilson Arch, Blue Mountain, and Eastland had two permits each and Lisbon Valley, Mexican Hat, and Flat Iron Mesa each had one permit issued.
With a total of 48 permits in 2008, the Blanding area experienced the most growth in the county and continues to boom.
This growth and development countywide stems from the tremendous activity in energy exploration and development.
East of Monticello, Encana Energy Corporation has spent millions drilling new natural gas wells and laying miles of steel pipe so the gas can be shipped to their refinery in Lisbon Valley for cleaning and subsequent shipment nationwide.
North of Monticello, Lisbon Valley Copper has been milling copper ore stockpiled at their mill in Lisbon Valley. They recently announced plans to resume operations at their on-site open-pit mine, which could increase employment and put that facility back on track.
South of Blanding, Dennison Mines has the nation’s only operating uranium mill going strong. Scores of specially designed uranium trucks haul ore to the mill, which has a capacity of 8,000 tons per day. That means a huge transportation network necessary to simply keep the mill operating.
Dennison Mines recently announced an agreement with South Korea for 20 percent of their total production with a long-term contract.
Add to all of the above the many miners now working in area mines to produce those thousands of tons daily for the mill, and it all combines to create beneficial ripple effects throughout the entire San Juan County economy.
Another unseen economic stimulus is land sales. As the national picture looks bleaker for many city dwellers, they are mitigating their fears of the future by buying land in places like San Juan County. Local realtors report that while housing sales are down, land sales are still brisk.
While total building permits were down from 2007 to 2008, the year was still very strong overall.