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Prairie economics

"Prairie economics" Continued...

Issue: "Ready or not, here we go," March 28, 2009

Sanders also said that part of what Amarillo National does for its customers "is try to contingent plan" before the loan is issued, in order to "prepare for life's unforeseen events." He mentioned that Amarillo National rejected all bailout money because it didn't need it, and because taking the money equates to giving the government control over the bank.

Sha Gearn, Amarillo National's vice president in agricultural lending, concurred with Sanders that there is a slight slowdown in Amarillo, which he views as a necessary market correction following the record increases midway through 2008. He pointed to how corn prices that were around $7 a bushel in July 2008 have now returned to $3.50 a bushel. "We saw the same thing with oil and gas, and where crude oil was at $140 a barrel, it's now at $35 a barrel."

Gearn believes this correction will "eventually trickle down to Amarillo to a greater degree," but he noted that "we don't need as great a correction because we didn't see the inflated prices here that were seen on the East and West coasts, in [Las] Vegas and in Florida." He said Amarillo's unemployment has risen, "but it hasn't spiked," and he attributes that to common-sense economic practices: "We run our own little pattern in the Texas Panhandle, and it has a lot to do with the people here. We haven't had a huge growth in population, but we've seen enough increases in dairy, and oil and gas, to maintain steady growth."

As Gearn spoke I thought to myself: "But what if these positive things about Amarillo's economy don't really matter? What if Amarillo is simply the exception in a nation of cities that are failing everywhere else?" So I asked around to learn how things are going in Oklahoma City and Lubbock, and found the same positive responses for those two cities as well.

The view from lots of people here in Amarillo is that bad aspects of our current economic slowdown were exaggerated in order to get a stimulus bill through. While times are tough in parts of the country where the banks and local governments loaned and spent without common-sense restraint, Amarillo and other West Texas cities are chugging right along and would rather not have the federal government giving them money or telling them what to do.

Here in Amarillo we have people who know what it's like to raise the capital necessary to start a business and who also have the expertise to keep that business solvent. These are the people who will pay the taxes to fund the stimulus bill, although they will receive no benefit from the bill they're funding. What's in the stimulus bill for Amarillo? Stu Lake of Lake Construction spoke for lots of folks when he said, "Nothing at all."

-AWR Hawkins teaches history at West Texas A&M University

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