Business feature: Local economies stable during recession

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom New Mexico

While economists are declaring the recession nearly over, two Portales business people said the town seems somewhat insulated from the national economic peaks and dips.

More than 80 percent of economists believe the recession is over and an expansion has begun, but they expect the recovery will be slow as worries over unemployment and high federal debt persist.

Megan Hamilton said in recent months, business has held steady at Trader Horn’s True Value, where she is employed.

“I don’t know that it ever really got bad for us,” she said. “We did see things slow a little, but we didn’t see a drop, it just wasn’t accelerated growth.”

Hamilton said Portales seems to be insulated to some extent from the economic problems seen in larger cities.

“We don’t see the big highs, but we don’t see the big lows either,” she said.

Danny “Woody” Woodward of Woody’s Jewelry said Portales is affected by the national economy, but less than some places are. In fact, he said Portales may have the opposite situation of the national business outlook.

Woody’s Jewelry had a good summer. Although Woodward said he’s heard local business is slow in some areas, he pointed out that four new businesses started downtown and two relocated there recently.

“Whether the media’s talking about how bad it is or not, we’ve got some positives in this area,” Woodward said.

In Clovis, Community Development Director Claire Burroughes said that city has been “maintaining” through the recession, with GRTs, a percentage of tax collected from local retail and services, neither rising nor dropping in recent months.

Tabulated monthly, GRTs are a factor in evaluating the status of the local economic landscape.

“It’s not down, it’s not up, and it’s been that way for three or four months (and) it hasn’t gone down yet,” Burroughes said.

The economic consensus comes from leading forecasters in a survey by the National Association for Business Economics released Monday.

The forecasters upgraded the economic outlook for the next several quarters, but cautioned that unemployment rates and the federal deficit are expected to remain high through the next year.

The national housing recovery is one bright spot in economic predictions.

Portales is seeing housing growth, with one developer intending to build houses on at least 15 lots in the Baca subdivision, and another designing a planned community near Portales Country Club.

Burroughes said housing growth is on the horizon for Clovis as well, especially with growth at Cannon.

“We’re getting a lot of subdivisions coming in and people looking at constructing in the community,” she said.

Clovis businesses reported a range of economic situations, from seeing growth to still feeling a slump.