Economists: Southwest GA economy won't see quick recovery - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Economists: Southwest GA economy won't see quick recovery

By Len Kiese - bio | email

January 28, 2009

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - In Washington Wednesday night, the House of Representatives passed President Obama's $819-billion economic recovery package. Despite his strong effort to get bipartisan support, not a single Republican voted for it.

Here at home, economists delivered more disheartening news about our economy.   At the 18th Annual Southwest Georgia Economic luncheon, economists told city leaders not to look for a quick recovery and to get ready for things to get worse.

While Albany drivers pass by "closed" and "going out of business" signs, business owner Joy Scott is still hanging in there. "It's really bad. We've never had business this bad before," said Scott.

Scott compares today's 'bad' to more than 30 years of good business experience at Lasting Impressions in Albany. "If it gets any worse, we're probably going to have to be laying off some people," said Scott.

People just aren't spending like they used to. "We keep hoping that it's going to get better but it's gradually getting worse," said Scott.

Things are expected to continue along that gloomy road. "You're getting hit hard by that pullback in consumer spending. It actually started last Summer but intensified over the Fall and Winter," said Director of the Selig Center for Economic Growth Jeffrey M. Humphreys.

So when will it end? Humphreys says things won't bottom out in Southwest Georgia until the middle of 2010. "We're only about halfway through the bad stuff and Albany in particular is going to get a lot worse before it gets better because of the loss of the Cooper Tire plant," said Humphreys.

Recovery will be both long and weak and would most likely take a few years according to Humphreys. But on the national level, House members passed an $819-billion stimulus plan Wednesday.

More than $4.7 billion would come to Georgia. The biggest chunk, $2-billion, would go to the state budget and another $ billion for highways and bridges. More than $600-million would help modernize schools.

There's also money for mass transit and rail systems and $98-million for wastewater treatment and sewers. In education, there's money for technology grants and head start programs and $10-million dollars for low income energy assistance.

"It goes back to the financial system. Until it gets healthy again, our economy is going to continue to suffer," said Darton Asst. Professor of Economics Aaron Johnson.

Scott wants to suffer no longer. "We had a great Christmas but that can't carry us through but just a couple of months and I don't know what's going to happen after that," said Scott.

With the uncertainty comes some hope of a positive change. "I try to be optimistic because things have got to get better," said Scott. But as economists and lawmakers keep saying, it'll get worse before it does.

There's not all bad news. Along with the military base, Albany has a lot of healthcare and government jobs which Humphreys says is beneficial. Albany is also a university town which makes it more stable and it's a good place for retirees which helps the economy.    

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