Of course, college towns have a built in cure for recession: hordes of college kids. College kids are going to spend money, they are going to go out to eat and they are going to find entertainment that costs money. But, then again, with so many of our students coming from overseas these days, between the children of well-to-do and subsidized foreign students, life is good in town or so it seems. On the surface it would appear that the only students having problems are those paying their way through school although, in reality, those who have to balance school and work are probably getting the best education of all. They are learning what it takes to earn your way, a message that they'll never forget.
But even in the college town housing for sale is not selling well with a glut of available homes on the market and even some of the university entities are having layoffs. So all isn't rosy, it just looks better than the smaller towns in the area where small business has been decimated.
Today I ventured up to Jacksonville to visit a good friend and I thought it would be a good time to see if the more urban communities are doing as well as the Chamber of Commerce likes to report. Now I used to live in Jacksonville and it was truly a boom town in the early 2000s but then, when the stimulus fiasco caused by bad housing practices blew the country apart, the River City started to show signs of slowdown, a process which continued to get worse until I retired in 2012. And even though I live only an hour or so away, I really haven't been back because I've had no need, but I was curious to see if economic difficulties were significant.
As I approached the city through one of the burgeoning suburbs that have sprung up over the last twenty years, the change was quite noticeable. Having worked in a construction oriented industry when I resided there, I am quite knowledgeable concerning the age of various housing and retail/business areas on the outskirts . Finding a large number of homes for sale, many facing repo action in some of the newer areas was astounding. And the surrounding retail areas, once booming with busy restaurants and stores had a number of them with "out of business" signs and the parking lots were sparsely filled.
Visiting with my friend, he told me of the problems throughout the city, how property values had plummeted and many people owed more than the property was worth, even after paying on the mortgage for many years. We used to always talk in years gone by that the boom at the turn of the century had to end, but never did I ever think it would be like this. And it continues with only slight improvement with no clear signs of real change.
Worse still is the countenance of the city's people. Everyone appears stressed and on edge. Most don't appear to really smile any longer and they spend all of their time locked into their I-phone doing Lord knows what as if it is an escape mechanism. Most of those who are in a retail establishment are not shopping, they are just looking. Quite a different picture from what would be found in town just a few years.
I could go on and on but I think you probably get me drift; you've probably seen some of the same in your neck of the woods. So any time I hear Barack Obama talking about how the country has turned things around and America is on the move I really don't know if I should laugh or cry. But I do know that most of us out here in flyover country know that things aren't like the days recently gone by. And if we don't get a handle on the economy and deficit spending whatever is left of our economy is likely to soon dry up. What will follow that is truly the scary part.
But thankfully I personally do have some consolation. Living on a rural piece of property with my animals and my wife, I can at least escape from what I saw today. Nature soothes me and also tells me that yes, there is a God and He is trying to tell us something. I just hope we all figure it out before it is too late. Or maybe it's just that we've figured it out already but we are afraid to do anything about it. In any event, we each need to use our heads and our prayers to ask for His help in determining our course. He will guide us and restore us if we put our faith in Him.
So here's to better times and a happier future, America. And God bless you all.