December 26, 2005

By narrow measures, QC economy shows "great progress"

While the headline is certainly debateable, the Dispatch/Argus chose to go with the postitive spin on the local economy in 2005. Commendable, I suppose, but they have to strain to do it.

They quote a high ranking bank exec and a huge real estate magnate as saying things are looking good. I'm sure they are... for them.

Here are the list of "positives" cited in the Dispatch. Notable is that they almost all seem to regard as positives the fact that things weren't absolutely horrible. Kind of a strained definition of positive.
The growth he's seen this past year encompasses new construction in commercial and residential real estate and an expectation of business growing jobs, he said. Employment in large and small business also is starting to stabilize, he said.
More real estate built and the "expectation" of jobs. Wow. And employment is "starting to stabilize". Positives, but only in the sense that things aren't going down the tubes.
He's also noticed a more positive spirit among Quad-Cities leaders. That's new and gives him hope. The Quad-Cities economy is "significantly better than one year ago and unbelievably better than two years ago," he said.

The year was positive on many fronts.

Moline-based Deere & Co. ended its 2005 fiscal year with record earnings of $1.447 billion on a 10 percent revenue gain. Deere also solidified its investment in wind energy.
Reports were that Deere lost a huge amount of revenue and profits, but it wasn't as bad as expected. Again, an odd positive.
There were no major factory closings in the Quad-Cities.
Again, considering "at least it wasn't disasterous" to be a positive.
Many smaller businesses including Rock Island's Hill and Valley, the former Nancy's Pies, changed ownership but retained their work forces. Deere sold its health-care company and building to Minneapolis-based UnitedHealthcare, which promised to retain the work force and Quad-Cities operation. The deal will close next spring.
Well, at least not many jobs were lost.
The unemployment rate in the Davenport-Moline-Rock Island metropolitan area steadily declined from a monthly high of 6.8 percent last January to 4.6 percent in November, the latest data available.
That's a solid positive. At least it shows real movement in the right direction. Of course, unemployment stats have been shown to be pretty unreliable in that it only counts those out of work who are actively seeking work. The fact remains that there are many out there who have given up and are no longer in the system looking for work, or who have simply moved out of the area.
It was another banner year for the local housing market, said Pryce Boeye, retiring president of Mel Foster Co. Real Estate Division. Baby boomers nearing retirement age are driving a hot condominium market, while the inventory of pre-owned homes is starting to ease off. Shortages in certain housing inventory drove prices upward for awhile, creating a sellers market, but that situation is starting to ease, he said.
Good news for realtors and large developers. Retirees that escaped the downturn are spending their money.
New home construction in the Illinois Quad-Cities is on the verge of an explosion once the new West Rock River Bridge opens next year, he said.
Again, if you're a big player, whoo hoo!
Quad-Cities retailers were pleased with sales in 2005, said Rick Baker of the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce. The chamber ended its fiscal year Aug. 31 with the highest membership in chamber history with 1,050 members.
Wow. Now there's some spin! A blanket statement that "retailers were pleased" means not much. And the only positive he can dredge up, and don't forget, the guy is a professional business cheerleader, is that membership in the Chamber of Commerce is up. Does that mean anything as far as the economy of the area goes? I'm not sure it does, but oh well.
The chamber also forged a partnership with Renew, Redeem and Dari, known as the Illinois Quad City Growth Alliance, to channel the communities' economic development efforts in one direction, Mr. Baker said. The Young Professionals Network (YPN) was successful in 2005 and continues to grow, Mr. Baker said.
Again, good for the chamber, next to meaningless for the economy in real terms.
The chamber also launched its unified strategic development plan, Blueprint 2010, and started to impliment elements that it could afford, Mr. Baker said.
Whatever that means.
Triumph Foods of St. Joseph, Mo. announced plans to build a pork processing plant in East Moline. Local job trainers say the 1,000 jobs the pork processor promised will create 300 accounting, computer, and skilled salaried office jobs and boost wages for the area's other meatpackers.
Think what you will about this.
The Quad Cities Chapter of SCORE of retired business people and other small business developers counseled a growing number of entrepreneurs and business wannabes laid off last year from the East Moline Case plant and Eagle Foods. Although a number of start-up businesses will not survive five years, many others will.
Again, positive? I suppose. A ton of people are out of work and casting about for some sort of business idea which will likely fail. I guess that's good.

They then speak to the vice president of the Quad City Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO and things get down to reality.
The public needs to study the local economy in a global context to determine what has happened to the great-paying jobs in the Quad-Cities and other communities, said Dino Leone, Illinois vice president of the Quad City Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

What impact have free trade agreements, federal income tax breaks for the rich and corporate giveaways had on dividing communities, destroying small businesses and reducing local industry, he asked. He called for opening the Thomson prison and the need for a living wage, which would benefit the local economy.

Here are some other sobering thoughts about 2005:

-- Interest rates ticked upward, slowing fourth-quarter QC housing sales.

-- The Rock Island Arsenal will lose 1,182 jobs in a base-closing, military cost-cutting process. The impact could have been worse if the entire Arsenal had been shut down. Job-training services have started for affected employees.

-- Alcoa cut 80 salaried employees last March to bring operating costs at the Riverdale plant in line with competition.

-- Bankrupties increased in mid-October just before a change in federal bankruptcy laws.

-- Gasoline prices at Quad-Cities pumps briefly topped $3 a gallon this year. -

-- There were price hikes and shortages of bottled water, chlorine and certain building supplies after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

-- Quad-Citians are experiencing skyrocketing heating bills this winter.

Mr. Leone believes more people are speaking out and fighting for resolutions to the inequities in their wages and benefits. They will demand solutions to these problems and force leadership to make real changes, he said.

"The tide is starting to turn as people feel the cause and effects in their pockets and at the dinner table."


At 12/27/2005 1:58 PM, Blogger Cal Skinner said...

Those of us who are red-green color blind are having trouble when you use the two colors together.

At 12/27/2005 6:58 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

That would stand to reason.

"Those of us..."?? How many people do you know who are red/green color blind?

Must be kind of tough around the holidays, eh?


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