From Tony Crumbley, the Charlotte Chamber's vice president for research:
It seems all we hear today is how bad the economy is in Charlotte. The stock market is declining, houses are being foreclosed, banks are laying off workers. Clearly the vast majority of the community is experiencing the "half empty glass" syndrome.
We are placing the blame on the lending institutions and the real estate community, when, in fact, the real culprit is the lack of consumer confidence driven by daily negative media. It's time someone puts in perspective just how "bad" our economy really is.
Money magazine recently compared 1932 with 2008. Some highlights: GDP was -13 percent in 1932 versus 1.6 percent in 2008; unemployment was 23.6 percent compared with 6.1 percent; inflation was -9.9 percent compared with 4.2 percent.
The nation is a long way from the bread lines of the 1930s. The reason it took so long for the feds to call the recession is because the American worker is still producing positive growth.
We in Charlotte are considerably better off than the rest of the nation. There are few places in the world one could be today and have such a positive quality of life and economic future.
Housing across the nation has seen a price decline of nearly 17 percent over the past year. Only recently has Charlotte seen any decline, which totals 3 percent.
The next time you drive past the downtown skyline, take a look at all the construction cranes. Charlotte will have a record year in 2008 for value of new non-residential construction.
The cost of living in Charlotte is 7 percent less than the national average. This is one reason nearly 40,000 people a year move to Mecklenburg County. All we hear on the news is the increase in unemployment. The fact is there are more people employed in Charlotte today than were employed a year ago. Charlotte is still creating jobs and will continue to do so. 2008 will see an increase of 12,000 new jobs in Charlotte.
Companies looking at opening a new operation in Charlotte continue to keep the Chamber's economic developers busy. Each week on average 10 new companies seek information about the city and the Chamber staff hosts four visits by companies for a closer look.
In spite of all the banking turmoil, Charlotte continues to prosper from the banking community. In the beginning of 2008, Charlotte was the nation's #2 banking center, and it still is. When the dust settles there will be more people working in finance in Charlotte than ever before.
Lastly, let's look at our airport, often beaten up for its seemingly high ticket prices and full parking lot. Those full lots should tell you something and all that red dirt along I-485 should reinforce your conclusion. 2008 was a record year for passenger enplanements at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, on track to surpass 17 million, an increase of 5 percent from 2007.
Why aren't we reading and hearing about these positive indicators? The list is out there and continues to grow. When will this community understand that the "glass is half full" and consumer confidence will return?