Obama effect stirs hope
Nick Howlett does not expect to wake up Wednesday morning to hear that the American economy is humming again.
He figures it will take Barack Obama well more than a day to re-energize the economy. But Howlett, who is the manager of Utah Ski & Golf in Old Town, was optimistic on Monday, the day before Obama’s swearing-in.
He said he hopes people feel more comfortable that the economy will recover under Obama’s guidance, that Obama can "at least get us pointed in the right direction." That could convince them to take a vacation, bringing people to places like Park City.
"It gives people hope that things will be turned around. It gives people hope there will be a change," said Howlett, who voted for Obama and reported business at the store has been solid this winter though it trails bigger seasons since the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Obama’s swearing-in comes amid what many in Park City say has been a mediocre winter for business. The downturn quickly spread through key sectors of Park City’s economy, with the related housing and construction markets well off and tourism suffering.
"He’s got a lot of work ahead of him. He’s been left with the biggest debt in history, basically on the verge of a depression," Howlett said.
There has been lots of chatter around Park City in recent weeks about the inauguration and Obama’s administration, and there were an undetermined number of people from the Park City area who traveled to Washington for Tuesday’s ceremony.
At the Wasatch Brew Pub, Paul Brown, a co-founder and now a consultant for the Main Street establishment, said he is pleased that Obama has assumed the White House. He said people are excited.
"As a businessman, I think any change is good for the economy," he said, adding, "Obama getting in there, I think he’s going to be very proactive getting money into the economy."
He predicted it will take nearly a year, though, for Park City businesses to accurately gauge the effects of Obama’s economic strategy. Christmas week 2009, Brown said, people will have an idea of whether Obama’s programs are successful.
"I don’t think you’re going to see any big, sharp uptick in the stock exchange. There’s too much he’s walking into that’s not going to change overnight," Brown said.
In the local real estate industry, Lincoln Calder, the president of the Park City Board of Realtors, said Obama’s ascension will boost the confidence in the economy. He said he would like Obama to steer some federal relief money to assist people seeking home loans. That, he said, could boost the overall economy and "bring about a lot more optimism."
Calder said he does not expect local real estate agents to post record-setting sales in 2009, and he mentions economists saying 2009 will be a difficult year.
Calder, though, said Obama’s swearing-in on its own could change some attitudes about the economy.
"A renewed sense of optimism will go a long way," he said.
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The group that represents businesses in the Main Street core of Park City formally outlined a request to close the shopping, dining and entertainment strip to traffic on Sundays in the summer and early fall.