IM(H)O: Forget the moon, mars, and every other nearby space dirt. Lets focus on setting up a self-sufficient orbital capacity. During it's development, rescue or "life boats" are much more realistic than anything space-dirt based.
Once we have SELF-SUFFCIENT space-faring capability, we can take it "safely" wherever we want, apply it to "safe/self-sufficient" space-dirt bases on the moon, mars, Io, wherever, even fling it toward deep space, and time/resources won't be a critical issue.
Are we really that far from a space elevator? I thought self-organizing nano carbon tubes (reorganize the words the right way if they are wrong) were becoming plausible, and that we've created ribbons several feet long already? How much of this effort is even direclty or indirectly government funded? These are touted as being able to support their own weight.
But, I agree the space elevator will change everything space-wise, and would probably be the best first target of a lot of money. 2nd should be self-sustaining orbit. 3rd, take 2 to the planets, moons, and stars.