editorial     Aug 13 2010

High to Low

Mapos LLC

Last March, I spent a few days in Aspen, CO (locale of the origin story of Mapos, BTW). The recession has hit hard there, perhaps harder than other places around the country. Worse than auto-industry-dependent Michigan? Deeper than real estate-speculative Florida/Arizona/California? Maybe not. But when an entire region is dependent on the superfluous income of the wealthy – building trophy homes, renting luxury condos, buying lift tickets and family ski packages – and that income dries up, the recession becomes visible, raw, and immediate. In Aspen, there was a general pall covering the happy and energetic personalities in the valley. The gilded walls of this exclusive private island are eroding to the painful reminder that there is a larger world out there. Surrender can be read on their faces.

In a similar valley further North in the Rockies, a group of recession-affected entrepreneurs sees opportunity in this challenge. Up in Bozeman, MT, designers and builders who most recently built the massive second homes for the rich and famous have focused their skills at building affordable and portable shelters for war-bombed, earthquake-ravaged, civil-war-stricken refugees. This shift from the luxury to the affordable, from the wealthy to the displaced, from the .01% of the population to the unbelievable 40% who can really use it, makes us think the recession may have lessons for all of us.