Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Times Are Tough—What Do You Do?
by James Glaser
March 19, 2010

I imagine times are tough all over America. Here in North Florida it is no different. The problem is in a small community, when one business goes under, that might have been the only one of its kind in that town.

Here in Madison, the one really nice restaurant, the one you would take a guest to or a business client to, has closed. There are other places to eat, but to be frank, there are none you would call classy.

That means on the night you want to take your wife out to a nice place or when somebody visits, and you want to take them out, you are now forced to head out of town. That can be nice, but the money you spend does not travel around the local community.

That restaurant isn't the only place that has closed, and every time some business closes, that means more local money is leaving.

There is another problem when times get like this. People don't know what to do. Really now, how can a business, even a long established business think about expanding or start hiring new staff. You see a few shops close their doors, and you get conservative very quickly.

Madison has a nice downtown, and people do try to support the local businesses, but if you have to run out of town to buy something else because Madison no longer has that product, chances are good you are going to buy other things, too.

So, people are sort of in a state of paralysis. Some people might what to start up something new, but they are scared to try. Some people might want to put on an addition on their house, but they are wondering if this is a good time.

For sure you can't really go to the bank and say, I want to take out a home equity loan, because then you need your house to be appraised. People are afraid to have that done. First off they don't want the bank to know how much their house has lost in value, and second, they don't want to know either.

The other problem some people have is what to do with any money they have now. Most have already decided not to start some new business even if that has been their life-long dream. Most think, now is not the time. So, you have some money stashed away, the money you were saving to start that business, and what the heck can you do with it? Putting it in the bank gets you almost nothing.

The market was always good, but you are afraid that the minute you put your money in, it might tank. Gold and silver? Sounds good, but where do you sell in in a small town if you need to?

So, here we are in the South in a small rural community that is in a state of flux. Nobody is certain about anything. People still have ideas and dreams, but a paralysis has set in, and truthfully, so has fear.

I don't know how long it will stay this way or how many more businesses will close before things turn around. I do know it surely is hard on young people just getting on their feet or just starting a family.

It is probably a good thing that I spent time in the service. It taught me how to wait. Waiting isn't so bad if you have something to do. Instead of hiring somebody to roof my building, I am. Never thought I would do that again and the truth is, I'm slow enough that you would never hire me if I were to be paid by the hour. It looks good though.

After that, I'll be installing the fence around my garden and across the front of our property. It is about 440 feet of fence, and even though times are not good for the construction trade, the people still in business think that the prices they charged in the boom times should stay the same today. They will have to wake up, and just like the value of homes is coming down, the cost of their work will have to, too.

I'm blessed. I know what to do. I'll hire myself, and if things take a lot longer, they take a lot longer. Heck, I'm in the South. I have a roof over my head, I live with a woman whom I love, my children are all doing fine, and the skies are not cloudy all day. Yippie yi yoh ki yay!!!

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