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It’s no surprise that most people in Columbia have negative views about the economy, considering the constant barrage of bad news circulating about the declining housing and financial markets, bankruptcies, job losses, war costs and high prices for necessities.
Horizon Research Services in Columbia surveyed Boone County residents and found that only about 4 percent of the respondents had a positive view of the economy. (See our story on the report, “The Real Estate Edge,” on page 7.)
To me, the most interesting part of the 136-page report was the last section, in which answers to the survey questions were transcribed. It provides a rare insight into the minds of the average Joes and Janes in Boone County.
Take this question: How will the national economy affect the Boone County economy? While predominantly negative, the answers ranged from minimal to severe. Some used the word we don’t like to utter: recession.
“Tremendous,” one respondent said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we go into a huge recession soon.”
“Bad,” another said. “It’s going to get worse.”
Many people said the local economy will be minimally to moderately affected by a national recession because the vast majority of jobs in Boone County are in the areas of education, health care and insurance.
“I think the manufacturing sector could be hit, but most of the economy here in Boone County is more university-based, so I think it’s less affected by recession,” a survey participant said.
“Our local economy is strong enough to have some buffer against a worsening economy,” another said.
“Insulated” was a popular word.
“Things have slowed, but we’re not going to crash.”
Since consumer confidence helps drive the economy, opinions on the subject matter.
“Perception is everything,” one respondent said. “People perceive the nation to be in an economic crisis, so Boone County will think we are. But we have the ability not to be.”
However, many people cited real-life hikes in the cost of living when giving their opinions.
It’s more expensive to travel because gas prices are well above $3 a gallon. Grocery bills are higher. Medical bills are up, even for people with good insurance. Stock values are lower, and 18 percent of the respondents reported a loss of income in 2007.
“My husband is tied to the housing industry, and our income has been cut in half,” a woman said.
“Bills are going to be higher, for gas, rent, lights … you name it. It all fits together.” “Our dollar is weak, so everything is going up.” “Anyone who is not independently wealth is affected.” “The stimulus package is too late.”
Then there are the ripple effects.
“At our church, people are not pledging as much,” a respondent said.
There also were some positive concrete examples, such as, “The newspapers are full of jobs.”
But what can we do about all this?
Here’s one person’s opinion from the survey: “I think it’s important we all take responsibility and spend our money locally instead of buying on the Internet.”
One of the primary missions of the Business Times is to provide a wealth of information about the local economy, such as the Economic Index. On Monday, the CBT will host a luncheon and economic forum on the economy. Jeff MacLellan, chairman of The Landrum Co., will present his annual report on the local economy, which he has compiled annually for 22 years, and then some of the city’s leaders in government and business will discuss the situation. Of course, we’ll have a synopsis of that report and comments from the forum in the next issue.