Parts of South Mississippi’s economy are racing toward recovery while others linger in the recession, members of the Sun Herald Business Roundtable said Thursday.
The good news is home prices are rebounding, unemployment is holding steady and mortgage interest rates are the lowest they’ve been in 40 years.
Among the challenges is the Sept. 1 deadline for Coast governments to get Hurricane Katrina projects under way. Hospitals are facing new taxes and dwindling reimbursements, and small businesses are having a hard time staying afloat.
Three months ago, Larry Clark reported car sales had picked up and he said Thursday that trend continued through General Motors declaring and then emerging from bankruptcy. A partner at Butch Oustalet, Clark said since the federal Cash for Clunkers program to buy old vehicles was announced, “We’ve seen some reduction in traffic,” as buyers wait to see if they qualify.
The program rolls out today and Clark said there is a lot of confusion. Only certain vehicles qualify, and since all clunkers have to be crushed, “These cars are going away.”
He wonders what that will do for people who can only afford to pay $3,000 or $4,000 for a car. Those who qualify must buy a new car, he said. That may limit who can afford to participate.
New taxes and regulations on health care were also a key topic. Chris Anderson said a new state tax will cost a hospital the size of Singing River Health System $4 million the first year and $6 million by the third year.