Where to be in a Big National Recession – Columbus, Georgia

After Wednesdays’ Rotary Club of Columbus meeting, I buttonholed Mike Gaymon, president of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce,  to discuss the shape of the Columbus area economy and what 2009 will bring.  I got the idea from the Rotary  program, which was “The Fearless Financial Forecasters,” three Rotary Club stock brokers who discussed the past year’s performace by the stock market, which was dismal, as you know, and picked some possibly winning stocks for this year.  Their picks made no difference to me because I don’t plan to buy any stocks, anyway.  In times like these, retired folks like me deal mainly in safe investments such as U.S. Treasury Bonds.  But, they did trigger my thoughts about the local economy.

Michael Gaymon, president, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce

Michael Gaymon, president, Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce

You always expect a Chamber of Commerce type to paint a rosy picture, and Mike didn’t let me down, but he also is a realist and balanced his optimism with  sobering thoughts about the recession we are in.  Yes, the home building and selling industry is hurting in our area and will continue to have problems in 2009, just as it will nationally, and the automobile sector is not doing well, which was especially emphasized with the collapse of Bill Heard Chevrolet at the close of 2008.  Car sales are down and not expected to bounce back any time soon.  Gaymon also told me, “Some of the big box stores are hurting in Columbus, not the discount stores like Wal-Mart, but those that are not discount stores, and some may even close.  While some of the Columbus big box stores are doing better than others in the chains, it really doesn’t matter if the chain closes nationally.”

Even with all that, though,  2009 promises to be a very good year, with the Kia plant at West Point infusing  jobs and spin-off businesses, and AFLAC continuing to do well and adding jobs, and with the build-up at Fort Benning providing a huge stimulus to the Columbus area economy.

“We will continue to feel the effect of the national recession, but the recession in Columbus will be much less than the rest of the Southeast and the country.  Fort Benning is spending $2 billion dollars on new construction, getting ready for the infusion of new troops. The post provides a monthly payroll of $110 million, and a monthly payroll for contractors of $210 million. That’s $330 million every month, with a lot of it going directly into the Columbus economy. And that is going to increase dramatically over the next two years.”

This boils down to the encouraging fact that Columbus, Georgia is a very good place to be during economic downturns like the huge one the country is now experiencing.

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