Is the market affecting local businesses?

January 23, 2008 5:32:38 PM PST
The markets are just one broad indicator of how our economy is faring. There are a lot of factors and those who run small businesses see a lot of them faster than most of us. We talked to a couple of them about what they see in Houston's economic present and future. You know Jim McIngvale as 'Mattress Mac,' the consummate furniture salesman.

"The housing has obviously slowed a little bit and that affects the furniture a little bit, but the overall economy is good," he said.

And despite the negative economic news everywhere we turn, he remains positive about his business.

"Our outlook for 2008 is pretty positive," said McIngvale. "I think it'll start off a little slow and pick up toward the end of the year."

He says that's in large part due to Houston's Medical Center, the growing port, and of course the energy industry.

"It's a very strong economy," said McIngvale. "We're pretty diversified. But oil is still the king in Houston and as long as oil stays 70 dollars a barrel and up, I think we're in good shape."

That's not exactly the take Gregg Bingham has.

"People have just made bad purchase decisions," he said.

He agrees that our economy is stronger here than elsewhere, but he sees the hit some of his five auto shops are taking, depending where in town they are.

"Economics is basically like a totem pole," said Bingham. "You have at the top of the food chain the best and at the bottom of the food chain the worst. So when you're in the slower neighborhoods, you expect it to show up there, too."

Bingham has a degree in economics and thinks the real problem is credit. People have too much and maybe, once this downturn fully hits Houston, it'll be a good thing.

"It's like a cold towel right in the face," he said. "You slap people around and they say, 'Hey, geez. I gotta quit doing this' because the dollars aren't there any longer."

So small businesses are already seeing a pinch, even though Houston remains pretty strong. But both men we talked to have a positive outlook and think the good times are again just around the corner.

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