Friday, December 12, 2008

Follow the lead of the 'Peace Minded State'

Maybe it's because I'm around people with oodles of money that looks like it's flushing down the toilet, but I've had about enough of these doomsday scenarios. Yep, shit is hitting the fan and pretty soon it's gonna start smelling. Seriously, am I the only one that has the feeling that all these companies are just waiting until after Christmas to start laying off people in masses?

The economic downturn that first wreaked havoc on the financial industry has trickled down to the auto industry and soon it's going to shove its ugly head in everything. I mean, even sports are feeling the heat, and I really didn't think that would happen so soon. NASCAR has called off its testing sessions (essentially the preseason for race car drivers), the Arena Football League is floating on thin ice and almost cancelled its season this week, and even Major League baseball has seen one of the slowest free agent signing periods in the history of free agency thanks to owners' hesitance to spend big bucks.

So you say you want to avoid all this ... well I've got a simple piece of advice. Go to North Dakota:

The number of new cars sold statewide was 27 percent higher this year than last, state records through November showed. North Dakota’s foreclosure rate was minuscule, among the lowest in the country. Many homes have still been gaining modestly in value, and, here in Fargo, construction workers can be found on any given day hammering away on a new downtown condominium complex, complete with a $540,000 penthouse (still unsold, but with a steady stream of lookers).

While dozens of states, including neighboring ones, have desperately begun raising fees, firing workers, shuttering tourist attractions and even abolishing holiday displays to overcome gaping deficits, lawmakers this week in Bismarck, the capital, were contemplating what to do with a $1.2 billion budget surplus.

And as some states’ unemployment rates stretched perilously close to the double digits in the fall, North Dakota’s was 3.4 percent, among the lowest in the country.

Yes, the "Peace Garden State" has, so far, been mostly recession proof (and yep, that's the actual state motto, I looked it up). Now I've actually been to North Dakota, and more specifically driven through a little chunk of the state a few years ago during my days covering the Michigan hockey team. My lasting memory, aside from the University of North Dakota's ridiculously awesome arena, was just how much nothing was there.

Seriously, Fargo is about 70 miles south of Grand Forks and there's literally nothing in between. And yet, still most people there say Grand Forks is just up the road from Fargo. The reason for this supposed forgotten state being the strongest of them all economically at this point in time:

A recent surge in oil production that catapulted the state to fifth-largest producer in the nation; a mostly strong year for farmers (agriculture is the state’s biggest business); and a conservative, steady, never-fancy culture that has nurtured fewer sudden booms of wealth like those seen elsewhere (“Our banks don’t do those goofy loans,” Mr. Theel said) and also fewer tumultuous slumps.

In fact, while most states are laying people off, North Dakota has 13,000 unfilled jobs that they can't find enough people to take. I wonder if any of those involve sports writing?

I typed in North Dakota into the images section of google and this picture came out. I know it's just a guy looking over the pastures of some "beautiful" part of the state, but my first reaction was "Holy crap Paul Bunyan is from North Dakota!" Doesn't this dude look like a giant?

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