Quarterly Business Report shows uncertainty in St. Cloud

The St. Cloud times hosted the Quarterly Business report last Thursday to discuss the St. Cloud economy and where exactly it stands, in terms of the community’s economic state.

The responsibility of compiling and presenting all of the data at the Quarterly Business Report fell on King Banaian, dean of the school of public affairs at SCSU. Banaian also collaborated with Rich MacDonald, a professor of economics at SCSU.

Banaian’s report shows that there is uncertainty of where St. Cloud’s economy is going in regards to the near future. Banaian said that as of recently, however, purchases of consumer goods have been up in St. Cloud.

With the recent uptick in the purchasing of consumer goods, Banaian said, “Don’t run out and get the new suburban anytime soon.”

The report explains that the recent uptick in consumer goods has been attributed to downturn in gas prices.

“Drop in gas or oil prices, because it is a necessity actually increases the disposable income of families,”Banaian said. “It allows them to consume more goods, it allows them to go out to the restaurants, it allows them to buy a new car or take a trip, and what were seeing really is some of the retail sales in the community are being lifted up perhaps by lower oil prices, so the support for retail sales in the community have been pretty strong, largely to the impact of lower oil prices and prices of gasoline at the pump.”

Banaian and MacDonald’s report window is not as big as people may think. Banaian said that his predictions only carry water for about four to six months. Banaian said that when gas prices start to climb, families and individuals will not have the disposable income to afford purchasing consumer goods, as they do now.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, who was also in attendance at the report, discussed his optimistic views of St. Cloud’s economy, as well as the greater central Minnesota area. Simon’s presentation was focused on central Minnesota’s long-term economic growth, with his optimism attributed by population growth and a rise in employment throughout the region.

“The general trend for the region, not speaking about St. Cloud, necessarily alone, but I’m thinking of the central Minnesota region looks pretty good,” Simon said. “I’m not saying it will be uninterrupted good news, but the short-term impact, the short-term assessment looks pretty good. St. Cloud is obviously the power house of the central Minnesota region, and it, outside of the Twins Cities, had the best performance of any of the six regions, so I think it is poised for some growth compared to the rest of the state.”

Another topic Banaian discussed at the report was the school bond referendum that will be on the ballot this November. The referendum will issue a bond of about $170 million to revamp Apollo High, as well as rebuild and relocate St. Cloud Technical High School.

The referendum will only be on the ballot for citizens of district 742, including the SCSU campus.

If the referendum passes, $170 million will be allocated to the massive renovation projects for both Apollo and Tech high school. In order to pay the money back, the referendum calls for property taxes among local business to rise.

“What we did is we asked business leaders their opinion about the referendum,” Banaian said. “So, this is just a poll of 68 people, not chosen randomly really, and what we got back from them was a combination of, ‘Well, we want to support the referendum, we think it’s good, but we think the impact on our taxes will be pretty steep and we think that we don’t know if its really going to help us, in terms of recruiting additional people to come live in St. Cloud.’”

In closing, both Simon and Banaian left the report on a positive note, assuring the people and businesses of St. Cloud that long-term economic growth is possible.

“The long term prospects for St. Cloud are great,” Banaian said. “They’re greater then they have been, then they are in other parts of the state, they’re greater then they have been in quite some time.”

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