Local business climate seeing positives, negatives

Local business climate seeing positives, negatives

In the past two years, businesses have been hit with COVID mandates, worker shortages, inflation that’s reached a 40-year high and supply chain issues.

Still, unemployment is low.

In April, the state reported a rate of 3.2% — down from 3.9% a year earlier.

But the local workforce was also down — from 47,155 in March to 46,746 in April.

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis says the Daviess County workforce peaked at 51,076 in 1999.

That means there are there are 4,330 fewer people working or looking for jobs here now than thee were 23 years ago.

So, what’s the business climate in Owensboro like these days?

Candance Castlen Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, says there’s good and bad.

“Our new business start-ups are still growing at a pace which creates a sense of optimism,” she said.

Brake said, “The younger generations in our area are very entrepreneurial and we are also seeing more mature-aged people who left the workforce during the pandemic and decided to start their own businesses and ventures.”

But there are troubling signs on the horizon.

She said, “As interest rates rise to fight inflation, there is potential for this growth to slow. But that doesn’t seem to be the case just yet.”

Brake said, “Rising fuel prices are no doubt being felt by our local business community and our citizens, and the impact of that on bottom lines will increase as the high prices continue.”

She said, “This will impact consumer spending as well, when consumers have to put fuel in their tank instead of making purchases that they would like to make. These fuel prices will be passed down to the local level, impacting our local retailers and food and beverage profit margins.”

Brake said, “Workforce is still the No. 1 concern of our local employers, which means opportunity for growth still exists.”

She said, “It is a employees’ market and definitely a time for a lot of worker mobility.”

Brake said, “Locally, this gives us a tremendous opportunity to grow our community by telling our story to workers looking for a smaller place that who has a slower pace of life and big city amenities.”

She said if people in the area know people who have been wanting to move back home, but couldn’t find the right job, “now is the time to have them take a look.”

By Keith Lawrence Messenger-Inquirer