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Local economy is huge concern for 2008

By Joe B. Coates

The holidays are over, and everyone is getting back to business. This new year has already been branded as a pivotal year on many fronts. It’s not about the presidential election. It’s not about who will replace Trent Lott in the Senate. It’s not even so much about who the next speaker of the Mississippi House will be. Even the war on terror is not as great a concern locally.

“It’s the economy, stupid,” as presidential candidate Bill Clinton so eloquently opined during his successful 1992 run against President George H. W. Bush.

While the national economy may be holding its own in several indices, the local economy is of great concern. No one is man enough in the larger media to speak the word ‘recession’, but the same kind of effects are being felt around here already.

Copiah County’s economics aren’t tied as strongly to the national picture as in some other areas. Here, our economy is not as static up or down as in other areas of the country. Most of that is because of the high volume of federal transfer payments that come into the county each month, and much of it is because salaries are lower, the cost of living is lower and our major industries–poultry, forest products and chemicals–are fairly stable in terms of jobs and product demand.

Mainly where we, here, feel the pinch of a tightening economy is in the amount of advertising in the paper each week. When companies or businesses are having to spend more for energy or health care for workers, for example, their advertising is ill-advisedly one of the first things to get the axe. On the contrary, advertising needs to increase in the ‘slow’ times…but that’s another story for another day.

Lack of consumer demand also tends to hurt us and other small businesses around town. When consumers see the price of milk, eggs, bread, fuel, lights and other basic items go up–especially if their income is fixed–then they spend less on other items. Less discretionary spending by consumers means less revenue for local businesses, and the effects are felt down the road. Unemployment may even rise as small businesses address the concerns of less revenue.

One of my favorite car dealers explained it clearly just the other day: When the car dealers aren’t selling and trading for cars, the man who owns the oil change place is not doing much business, the man who cleans the cars is not doing as much business, the tire dealers are slower, and so on. Get the picture?

So, what will it take for Copiah’s economy to set fire, again? There’s no clear answer. One way to help our own personal ‘economy’ is to produce more, work more, work harder and do whatever we can to earn more income, pay our bills, save some and have some to spend and give away.

The great news is that after every downturn, there have always been great periods of economic growth. So, let’s keep our heads up and work through the tough times together, cling tenaciously to keeping our heads above water and gear up for the boom times that are coming. Because they are.

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