A look back and a glimpse forward

Monday, December 18, 2006

Predicting the future is tricky business.

In the past, I've made a prediction or two about the business scene. Some of them have even come true. But most of them ... um ... didn't.

I predicted that Sears would move to the mall, that Albertsons would overcome it's little cash-flow problem and that Jim Talent would win re-election in a land-slide.

Ahem.

Outside the business world, I've peered into the crystal ball a time or two, too. I once famously predicted/promised to my wife that I would never say another stupid thing again. I've predicted that we were through having children, which every two or three years my wife delights in proving me wrong. I've predicted that I would quit smoking in the next few months and I predicted that the Cardinals would win the World Series.

Of course, I predicted that in 2003.

Again, ahem.

So this year, I think I'm going to avoid making bold predictions that no doubt have no chance to come true. Save for one, and this one has nothing to do with business, though I feel strongly about it: Paris Hilton will get into a car accident, get arrested or say something really, really stupid. Maybe all three.

Other than that, though, I think I'll leave the predictions to people who actually know what they're talking about. I recently interviewed several business experts, and I came away with a semi-positive feeling about the new year.

Overall, it seems like 2007 will be more of the same for the Cape Girardeau area. That's one way of putting that it's going to be a solid year, but not a stellar one. Even though many parts of the U.S. are expected to see economic slowdown, pushed by the downturn of the housing market, here in Southeast Missouri, we should weather that just fine.

National experts are predicting growth of the U.S. economy, the world's largest, to slow to 2.4 percent next yearfrom 3.3 percent in 2006 and the 3.1 many predicted in May. The modified projections are largely based on a weakening housing market.

One business expert friend of mine called for a 1 to 2 percent increase in growth in Cape Girardeau. Of course, this person is a Cubs fan and, so, not to be trusted.

No one is denying that the cooling housing market will be a cause for concern. But those in the economic know say that it less likely to have an impact here. The war in Iraq? It's a continuing national story and a controversy, but most say it won't have an affect on the economy.

One of the biggest stories, from a business perspective, over the next few years will revolve around Southeast Missouri State University's plans to transform about 400 acres of farmland into retail stores, commercial business, science and technology research operations and residential development in the next few years.

"That's going to be a focal point in the coming years," MAGNET's Mitch Robinson told me last month. "When spring comes around, we're going to start seeing some dirt getting moved out there, and things are really going to get cranked up."

But 2006 was a promising year. While Missouri was crushed by job losses in recent years, NARS became a household word with the arrival of National Asset Recovery System. The call center, up and running by the time you read this, is expected to create as many of 500 jobs.

Nobody last year saw that coming.

Also, Signature Packaging, a Georgia-based corrugated box manufacturer that announced plans to build a 80,000-square-foot plant in Jackson that will create 40 jobs.

That either.

Topping any list includes the opening of the new federal courthouse and the grand opening of the university's River Campus near the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge.

The next year promises to bring some exciting developments, Knudtson said, including the opening of the new federal courthouse and the grand opening of the new River Campus near the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge. Big deals, both.

So while 2006 saw some exciting developments, 2007 promises to be a doozy.

That, you can take to the bank.

Scott Moyers is editor of Business Today.

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