Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Taking Good Financial News Wherever I Can Find It

Today, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners approved two new businesses in the shopping center near my house: a Chik-fil-A and Kroger Fuel Center, both to be built in the upper parking lot of the center where Kroger is located. I walk through this area every day, and the area has seen no real growth in several years; this is the first significant addition of businesses, and I'm hoping that's a good sign.

Through the 1990s and the early/mid 2000s, there was a lot of business churn; some new businesses came in, a smaller number faded away, and the area grew. Then came the Era of Economic Turbulence, and new business growth pretty much disappeared, while several established businesses struggled and failed.

Like many other communities, Cobb County has struggled as well. Business failures mean a diminished tax base and decreased sales tax revenues, and that strains the county's budget. As a result, county services have been cut, budgets are tight, and there's talk of a tax increase in the immediate future. Two new businesses certainly won't be enough to end the county's problems--but if this is a sign that business growth is starting to return, then perhaps we are in the early stages of an era of improvement.

I've lived through several eras of economic turbulence--the wage and price controls of the early 70s, the stagflation of the late 70s, the recession of the early 80s, the recession of the early 90s, the recession of the post-9/11 period... but none of those have had anywhere nearly the societal impact of the current recession. I suspect that, years from now, this will be viewed in the same way that the Depression was viewed historically in the decades after it ended. I know several people who have been out of work for far longer than I (or they) ever imagined they would be. The people I know who have weathered the recession best are those who have been willing to abandon their old professional views of themselves and take new positions in new (and often less rewarding fields)--but "weathering the recession" certainly doesn't mean "thriving in the recession."

I'm always looking for good signs--and I'm convinced that they're going to have to come from the private sector. Locally, the addition of these two businesses is just such a good sign. I've heard rumors of other business expansions in the area over the next few months as well; if they come to pass, it may signal a true turning point.

(Several of my neighbors were less thrilled than I with the addition of a Chik-fil-A and a Kroger Fuel Center, fearing that they would create traffic problems and be a nuisance to the neighborhood. I don't dismiss their concerns, but I think the benefits of these businesses far exceed any potential drawbacks. Hope that's the case, because the businesses are definitely coming!)

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