12/25/2010: Stockings aren’t empty

Date published: 12/25/2010

FOR MANY OF US, this year’s economy didn’t leave a lot of presents under the tree. Homes and jobs were lost, and businesses went under. Malaise settled on us like a wet blanket.

Amid all the lumps of coal in our stockings, though, there were reasons for optimism and cheer, some of them already realized and some on the horizon.

Here are a few gifts that a cash-strapped economy left for us. Maybe in 2011, there’ll be a few more.

THE STOCK MARKETWe aren’t back to 14,000, but the Dow seems likely to end the year about 10 percent above where it was at the end of 2009 and about 30 percent higher than its close on Dec. 31, 2008. Your cup isn’t half-empty; it’s 30 percent more full than it was two years ago.

More potential good news: Statistics show that the year after midterm elections tends to be a good one for stocks. That would be 2011.

BRACThe 2005 decisions of the Base Realignment and Closure commission will bring almost 3,000 new military jobs to North Stafford next year, and it’s already having an effect on economic development along U.S. 1 and Garrisonville Road.

Defense contractors have been signing leases on new and existing office space in North Stafford, giving a much-needed shot in the arm to the commercial real estate industry. Ample construction projects are in the works.

NEW BUSINESSESMany of the “For Lease” signs that had been on empty storefronts during the recession are coming down as new businesses open up.

The Village at Towne Centre and Eagle Village’s newest retail and office buildings are almost completely leased; and Hobby Lobby, hhgregg and Verizon have filled spots formerly held by Linens ‘N Things, Circuit City and Tweeter in Central Park. Look for even more businesses to open in 2011, including some locally based restaurant chains.

JOBSThe unemployment rate in the Fredericksburg region has hovered around 6 percent for much of 2010. While that’s nearly double the region’s average over the past 10 years, it’s well below the U.S. rate and one of the best in Virginia–which itself is one of the nation’s better performers.

Further, though the rate hasn’t really been improving, it hasn’t been getting worse either. The regional economy is built on some of the most stable industries in the U.S.–education, health care and government contracting.

HOUSINGAfter being in free fall for several years, the local housing market has mostly stabilized in 2010. Prices and sales remain around the same levels as this time last year. The lower prices have created buying opportunities for some people, including many first-timers helped along by a now-expired federal tax credit.

The home-building market remains depressed in the Fredericksburg region, but lately there have been more land deals and rezoning requests, which suggest that conditions could improve over the next couple of years.

TAXESWhatever your tax status, you probably breathed a sigh of relief when President Barack Obama signed the tax bill Dec. 17, extending tax cuts for everyone, rich and poor, at least for another year.

The federal deficit continues to climb, and if you aren’t grossing $200K a year, maybe you see the extension as a mixed blessing. But any kind of blessing’s welcome to most of us.

Date published: 12/25/2010

http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2010/122010/12252010/594973

 

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