Recently I had an opportunity to do some traveling in the south. This business mixed with pleasure trip turned out to be very interesting. Being in the construction business for the past 30 years I have traveled to nearly every state in the US. On this latest trip, my first impression was that the recession is certainly not over. Things have changed drastically since 9-1-1. The current recession has caused dramatic changes in our business climate. Closings of small businesses as well as large companies are evident everywhere. “Closed” and “Out of Business” signs are posted in numerous store-front windows that used to display operational products.
The South is probably doing somewhat better than the North. While passing through Jackson, MS, the old Jackson area revealed many closed strip malls and business areas. However, the larger businesses such as Nissan had a full shift working on Sunday.
From Jackson we traveled to Vicksburg, MS where we stayed for the night. Vicksburg is a very historic town. I stayed in Vicksburg several years ago and, for its size, it seemed to be flourishing. Hotels were full and there were tourists everywhere you went, restaurants, museums, National Military Park & Cemetery, walking tour and casinos were all hustle bustle activity. This stay was very different. There were very few people anywhere, including the casinos, which was a real mind-blower.
After completing business in Monroe, LA we traveled to New Orleans for a business convention and some fun. Keep in mind, this was Super Bowl weekend (Saints playing) as well as Mardi Gras season. Wow, what a shocker! The Big Easy was not herself. While the aftermath of Katrina should be long since past, some areas of Bourbon Street are still under construction. Many of the establishments are closed and vacant. This was not what I expected. I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras pre-Katrina and pre-recession. You could not even make your way through the crowds along Bourbon Street. Nearly every place we stopped was packed, and forget sitting down, it was standing room only. Not so this trip.
The long and short of it is, it is quite apparent that the recession is not over. So when political powers that be try to tell us that the recession has ended, don’t believe them. Take a road trip, anywhere, and see for yourself.