I think we will see signs of recovery at the grassroots level before it is visible on a national scale.
With all of the chest beating and finger pointing going on in Washington, DC, it's hard to separate fact from fiction. In fact, it's hard to tell the real players from those who are under indictment or investigation for fraud, acts of treason, and so forth. The phrase "confederacy of dunces" comes to mind.
It does not seem there is much near term hope for the economy with the government printing money and raising taxes like there is no tomorrow. The machinations in Washington are providing more entertainment and outrage than results at this time so the outlook seems uncertain.
On the other hand, here in rural Virginia life goes on without the benefit of smoke and mirrors or teleprompters. The grim realities of growing unemployment and tight money are being dealt with every day by hard working merchants, contractors and a host of self-employed small business owners.
I can't pretend to know why things are getting better recently, but I have experienced a major increase in customer orders over the past few weeks and have heard the same news from many other businesses in Floyd County.
My custom picture framing business has improved so much that I am working longer hours than ever before and have had to bring on additional help just to keep from being overwhelmed.
In talking to my suppliers, I hear encouraging news of increasing business volume and the very interesting news that their collection departments are seeing a marked increase in customers catching up on unpaid bills.
Almost every business I have been following has been offering special deals like higher discounts and free shipping to motivate customers to buy now. For the first time in months, some of these companies are cutting back on the special deals, leading me to conclude that their business is picking up also.
Here in Floyd, the prevailing mood is guarded optimism. We are happy to see the increase in local business and in tourist traffic, but we continue to offer special deals and do not feel that we are out of the woods yet. Every customer is a treasure and the way to keep them coming back is by providing outstanding customer service and convenience.
I also see a lot of concern for the welfare of people who are out of work. There seems to be a highly motivated and spontaneous offering of helpful advice and referrals for those who are seeking to build a new life and career after being laid off. This is not an "organized" or government type of assistance. Just people helping other people to keep their lives and families together.
So there may be despair and gnashing of teeth at the national level, but I hope we will continue to see encouraging signs at the local level. Our community effort to strengthen the local economy through Shop Local campaigns is certainly a step in the right direction.
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