The information requested on these forms is used as economic indicators to compile information pertaining to the Gross Domestic Product, monthly retail sales and the producer price index, all of which depend on the Economic Census for continued accuracy. The data are also used by businesses, large and small, and by your community. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, says this census is “indispensable to understanding America’s economy.”
If you need more information or help completing the form, see the Census Bureau’s business help site at www.census.gov/econhelp or call 1-800-233-6136.
American needs your numbers.
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While we’re talking numbers, let me pass along some statistics on our sagging economy gathered at Davos, as reported by Justin Fox, Time magazine’s business and economist columnist.
Fox quoted Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics at New York University as saying, “If it (a recession) hasn’t already arrived, it isn’t far away. The debate is not whether we’re going to have a soft landing or a hard landing in the U.S., but how hard the landing is going to be.”
With many of the world’s economic movers, shakers and interpreters gathered in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos and markets around the world were in free fall, they came to the conclusion that “U.S. consumers, who have been increasing their spending without pause since ... 1991, are tapped out. They scrooged their way through the holidays — retail sales were the weakest in five years — and employers started to get nervous. They have dialed down their hiring, sending unemployment inching up 0.3 percent (nationwide) in December. That’s 474,000 fewer people on the payrolls than in November.”
Here are some statistics: 5.6 percent of all home mortgages are now delinquent; 2.5 percent of all mortgages are in the foreclosure process — the highest rate ever measured by the Mortgage Bankers Association; the employment rate stands at 5.0 percent nationwide; housing starts have plunged 56 percent since they peaked in January 2006; there’s a 0.4 percent drop in retail sales from November to December, indicating that consumers may be pulling back from spending; there’s a 74 percent increase in the price of oil over the past year — gasoline prices increased 29 percent last year alone. Food prices rose by 4.8 percent last year with milk increasing 19 percent — mostly because of the increase in gas prices.
Time’s reporter Barbara Kiviat has some timely advice on surviving the slowdown. First, learn to earn. She says that in a 21st century recession, the jobs lost during the downturn aren’t necessarily the same ones that reappear during the rebound. Be prepared for a career switch. Fast-growing fields include health care, postsecondary education and systems analysis. On spending, her advice is to save that rebate check. If you should get a check, financial planners suggest paying down high-interest debt such as credit cards — and save the rest in a tax-deferred account such as an IRA.
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On Jan. 28, Karen Jacobson, the executive director of Highland Community Builders Inc., entertained Rotarians at Elkins. Jacobson’s company designs and builds homes for the HomeOwnership Program, which helps low- to moderate-income folks become first-time homebuyers or improve their housing through the purchase of a newer home.
This week’s speaker was attorney Melissa Coffman from the Elkins office of The Legal Aid of West Virginia, located at 224 Third St. Their mission is to provide free legal and advocacy services to low-income West Virginians for civil cases such as domestic violence, landlord-tenant issues, divorce, residents in long-term care and individuals who live with behavioral health challenges.
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Leave it up to Scott’s Auto in Valley Bend to find ways to help with athletic programs in the Tygart Valley. I just learned that for every new and used car Scott’s sells in the month of February, it will purchase a set of shoulder pads for the Tygart Valley High School football team. Here’s another member of our business community finding an innovative way of helping one of our schools. Hooray for Scott’s Auto — you’re a real winner.
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Tuesday’s Downtown Merchants meeting was, for me, a real hoot. I’m sitting in my “usual stall” — a term derived from a couple of my Rotarian friends who refer to sitting in the same place with the same folks at the weekly Monday luncheons — taking notes on what was being said in preparation of passing the news on to you. But every time I’d start to take notes I was told, “Oh, that’s not for publication — yet; we’re still working on it. When we get a little further along we’ll let you put it in the paper.”
I could have been somewhere on Mars drinking what every Martian drinks early in the morning and come away with more to talk about that I did from Tuesday’s meeting. Well, I’m going to defy their admonitions and tell you that plans are being made to “spice up” a couple weekends this year that haven’t been as exciting as they could’ve been in the past. Here’s a hint: there will be a gala celebration of a special building in town, and a weekly summertime event will be bigger and better than ever this summer.
Something that I can tell you about is the discussion of ideas concerning the July 4 celebrations. It was suggested, since the holiday is on a Friday this year, that downtown merchants might consider keeping later hours on Friday and Saturday evenings, and perhaps being open part of the day on Sunday. In other words, make hay while the sun shines. A suggestion was also made that merchants who aren’t on the “beaten path” in town might consider obtaining permission from the owners of the Seneca Mall to set up merchandise displays or use it as a place where they can advertise their businesses and meet people.
Organizers of this year’s celebration are expecting more than 700 entries in the car show, which is the big attraction. Last year, 635 automobiles, as well as approximately 135 motorcycles, entered the show. That’s a lot of people looking for “stuff” to buy.
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Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ellen Spears asked that I pass along that her office has been informed by Hampton Inn officials that it will be opening on May 15. This is good news for those having difficulty finding a place to stay during some of this year’s “hot dates” in and around Elkins. Reservations are being taken by the Hilton Garden Inn in Bridgeport and may be made by calling 304-326-8125.
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The Body Shop, formally Tan-UR-Hide, owned by Tealia Wolf, a licensed massage therapist, is now located at 929 S. Davis Ave., beside the Jaycee’s Club in Elkins. Her hours are Mondays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays by appointment only. She is closed on Sundays. For more information or to make an appointment, call 636-5566.