Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Green Shoots in My Lawn

I have been reading a lot about green shoots in the economy lately. Just like Bigfoot, there are those that have "seen" it/them and there are others that insist it/they do not exist. I think this is one of those glass half empty, glass half full debates. The truth is it depends upon your point of view and context. My business is up 300% over last year (really). Is that a green shoot? What about the new restaurant that opened down the street from my office. Is that a green shoot?

In each case above it depends on how you look at the numbers. I had two project reviews "walk in the door" in April yet I had been working on getting that work since last year. So in that case, I would not call it a sign of the economy picking up. The new restaurant down the street (which has excellent mexican food by the way) is a good sign, however, there are three existing restaurants that have gone out of business since January 2009. I am honestly not trying to spin the numbers or convince you of something where I am "right" and you are "wrong".

Personally, I will see and believe in green shoots when I start to see new non-construction jobs opening up. Don't get me wrong, construction is a great field and traditionally pays very well. But, when the job is finished, so are you. Honestly, I am just as confused as anyone when it comes to our economy. I see the stock market up while on the same day unemployment reaches a 26 year high. I hear the credit crunch is behinds us yet I cannot refinance a land loan that I have. I see great sales in the Sunday paper but few consumers actually buying. The canary in the coal mine is JOBS. Anything else I see on the positive side is a result of the economic stimulus package or temporary construction work. The stimulus package is really fertilizer designed to give us a quick boost. When the "food" is gone we may find a very brown lawn.
We are in an economic winter here. It will be a while before the spring is here and green shoots appear in my economic lawn. Rest assured they (green shoots) will come and we will probably miss the first few signs of new real growth.

On the positive side, I am seeing a lot of assets re-priced and being liquidated in the market place. While it is painful to be the one selling your investments at steep discounts it does put money in to the hand of people that will generally spend it in the economy (versus saving it). The last thing I want to leave you with is many segments of our society are in flux and some say we need to adjust to the "new normal".

While I agree some thing's have changed forever (very easy credit to name one) life will go on. This is also an excellent opportunity for most of us that have spent much of the last 30 years taking advice from "experts" that really knew what was going on. The playing field has been leveled and you and I now have a chance to learn in real-time along with these former experts about what the new normal will look like. I know, not much to brag about but it is nice for the little guy to know just as much as the big boys for a change even if what we collectively know is "not much".

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