â�?�?Continue to move forwardâ�?�? McGowan addresses VCDC banquet By David Lias
Plain Talk The featured speaker of the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company annual banquet certainly didn't give the "rah rah" kind of message you expect at such functions. At least, not at first. He talked of a global recessions and a stock market in this country and overseas that has has tanked and remained negative. But he also reminded Vermillion citizens that they are in much better shape than residents in other states to weather this economic storm. "The Dow Jones Industrial Average, from this date a year ago to now, the 52 week high was 13,191," Chris McGowan, executive director of the Siouxland Initiative, told the banquet crowd in the Eagles Club in Vermillion Feb. 20. "The 52 week low, which hit the closing bell today on the exchange, was 7,365." A year to date, the Dow was down 16 percent. "But from one year ago, the Dow was down 40 percent," McGowan said. "That is a staggering number. I share this with you to give perspective. I have hope for optimism, I am optimistic and I am particularly optimistic about the Midwest and places like Vermillion. "We are going to get there," he said, "but we can't get there if we don't identify what's taking place in the rest of the world." It's important for business leaders to interpret financial data and realize it means there currently are people who are hurting economically. "There are folks who are hurting, and we need to acknowledge that, and we need to go about our business and promote economic development, promote our business community," McGowan said. "From the job creation, from the manufacturing, we draw our tax base which allows us to provide social services which are so important." He noted that George W. Bush, toward the end of his administration, responded to the global economic meltdown with a $700 billion by the Bush Administration. That was followed by a $789 bailout by the Obama Administration. Last week, President Obama also proposed another $275 billion to address the mortgage foreclosure crisis. All of this is taking place at a time when unemployment is hitting an all-time high, McGowan said. "New jobless claims this week are 625,000. These are numbers that are perilously close to where we were in 1982 coming out of the late 1970s where we had double digit inflation, double digit unemployment and double digit interest rates. "So what we're dealing with is real. Now let's talk about where South Dakota is, and more specifically, where Vermillion is, and why we have cause for optimism despite all of the economic turmoil," he said. The national unemployment rate is currently 7.6 percent. South Dakota's unemployment rate is 3.9 percent, and Vermillion, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor, has an unemployment rate of 2.6 percent. "What that tells me is Vermillion is positioned for strength and growth in spite of what's taking place all around you," McGowan said. McGowan shared a portion of a conversation he had recently with an economist who is concerned that there will be a downturn in the Midwest that can't be halted. Communities who are home to three anchor institutions, however, will be somewhat immune to this downturn. The institutions are an international airport, a military installation, or a land grant university, like the University of South Dakota. "Those are anchors. They anchor a community and allow you the flexibility, the strength and the foundation to aggressively pursue expanding your economy," McGowan said. He added that the South Dakota business climate ranks number one in the nation. South Dakota is also number in the area of quality of life, and is tops in the small business survival index. "The state of South Dakota consistently ranks first in the country in all of these categories," McGowan said. "You are doing something right. You need to continue to invest in what you are investing in. You need to continue to move forward with what you've done, because what you've done has delivered results."