Saturday, November 7, 2009

Boom and Bust.

Back about three years ago, when some of us were suspecting we were in the midst of a bubble that was about to burst, we were trying to imagine what would happen to downtown Bend.

There were some of us that remembered the early 80's and were fearful of a repeat.

I didn't think it would get that bad, though I thought it would take longer to replace the businesses, and that we would see some sort of progression like: 3 leave, 2 come in; 4 leave; 3 come in; 3 leave, 4 come in; 5 leave, 3 come in, something like that.

It hasn't quite happened. (I should say 'yet.')

38 businesses have left downtown, 37 businesses have arrived. Downtown seems to be holding it's own.

That's the danger in prematurely predicting shuttered doors and homeless on every corner. You kind of lose credibility when it doesn't happen.

That said, I think I'm starting to see more signs of distress. I actually AM seeing more homeless lately, and outside of downtown, the vacancies are becoming more noticeable.

I think that during the first winter of this Great Recession, there was some shock and fear, but mostly the consequences hadn't quite hit. Second Winter was worse, but people could still live off their savings, hope that things would turn around. I saw customers going from residential, to commercial building projects, then to sidejobs, then to working for friends and neighbors, and now just picking up any kind of building work they can get, over or under the table.

The string is playing out....

It's going to be a long, cold winter.

Commercial loans are going to be coming due over the next couple of years, but it looks to me like the banks will continue a 'pretend and extend' policy for as long as possible.

Muddling through.

Janet Stevens of the Bulletin has a nice little editorial about the boom and bust cycle of Bend. I like that it identifies what I think is the major Achilles Heel in Bend -- it's isolation -- as it's biggest boon and bane.

But such an editorial would have been much more useful 2 and 1/2 years into the boom, instead of 2 and 1/2 years into the bust.

In fact, she should just file it, and rerun it the next time we have a boom -- you know, in 5 or 6 years from now.

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