Reports of an economic downturn have been greatly exaggerated, according to the chairwoman of the Pulaski County Tourism Board.
Meeting Thursday evening, Tourism Board Chairwoman Twyla Cordry said she’s not happy with regular accounts of economic downturns. Her own industry — mortgage lending — is in what some consider to be serious trouble, but Cordry said she hasn’t seen problems locally.
“We’re really looking at it being a great 10 years coming out as far as business goes,” Cordry said.
“There’s really a lot going on in the business community, and it’s getting to the point that if we could just get the national media to shut up for 30 days, everything would be fine,” Cordry said. “People are listening to the national media and saying it’s a terrible time to buy a house. Well, in Pulaski County it’s a wonderful time to buy a house.”
That’s largely due to the distinctives of Pulaski County’s military demographics, and Tourism Board Leon Saxton of Sweetwater BBQ said it may be easier for local businesses to compete.
“Believe it or not, most of the soldiers don’t want to buy the national chain stuff they can get in the big cities; they want to try the local places,” Saxton said. “I personally don’t have a lot of sympathy for the McDonalds, but you see the national news, they are all over the place.”
Tourism Board member Bob Moore, owner of the Pointe Steakhouse, serves a higher-tier clientele willing to pay more for steaks, but he said his customers are coming as well.
“People are still going out to eat; they just aren’t spending as much money and maybe not having dessert,” Moore said. “There’s definitely a slowdown in the market. I don’t think it’s that they can’t afford it; I think it is they don’t know what’s coming next.”
Tourism Board member Bruce Farris said the Glik’s store in St. Robert is one of the best-performing stores in its chain.
“We’re happy enough to build a new hotel here, a Holiday Inn, and that says a lot about our market,” Farris said. “You don’t put a new hotel in because they cost so much unless you are really pretty sure of your market.”
The only businesses reporting serious financial consequences were the outfitters, including Bob Sutcliffe, whose resort was damaged by river flooding.
“We lost four weeks; you can’t put people down the river if it’s too dangerous,” Sutcliffe said.
Sutcliffe said his business is attracting more families and that’s helping reduce the number of problem people on riverways.