Economic Status Report, Spring 2010

Posted on April 12, 2010

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In New York, the Dow-Jones closed above 11,000 today, and the Newsweek cover proclaims “America’s Back!”

Maybe so. But one Ocean City businessman told me today:

The recovery is affecting Wall Street, and a little recovery might be trickling down to Main Street, but recovery hasn’t started on the side street.”

I’ve been looking for a good economic summary, and there you have it.  The 2009 tourist season was disappointing for many in Ocean City, and the City Council is tightening the town’s budget with all its might. A good season is possible in 2010. Another difficult season is also possible. You can’t predict. Business may be uneven, with some flourishing while others struggle.

It’s never easy to operate a business in a seasonal resort. If you’re going to succeed, you have to work long, hard hours. And pray for good weather. Ocean City is literally buzzing right now with the sound of preparations for the Summer ahead. All things are possible in the Spring.

Looking at the big picture across the U.S., I personally believe that chronic unemployment will continue at nearly 10 percent, or more, into the future. See “The End of Work,” by economist Jeremy Rifkin. The End of Work

Speaking of employment, I’ve noticed a number of “Help Wanted” signs at OC businesses and in the two weekly papers.  If you’re interested in a seasonal job in the resort, now is the time to apply. One place to look is the new diner-style restaurant at the Francis Scott Key Family Resort on Route 50.

A Hooters waitress.

News that three respected civic organizations have rented a store on the Boardwalk to a Hooters restaurant has raised a few eyebrows here. It doesn’t exactly enhance Ocean City’s  “family resort” brand. Hooters will replace a nondescript T-shirt shop at the 5th Street site.

I feel a sense of nostalgic attachment to that particular neighborhood. My first home in Ocean City, in 1972, was at 5th Street and Baltimore Avenue, and I worked at 6th and the Boardwalk. The building at 5th Street and the Boardwalk was a popular bingo hall benefiting the OC Volunteer Fire Department.  We’ve come a long way, baby! From bingo to Hooters in 38 years.

I hope Hooters is paying top dollar per square foot for its lease. Not everyone can afford the rent on the Boardwalk these days.

On a brighter note, condominiums are being sold and settled this spring. I know that for a fact. Many newspaper ads offer sharply reduced condo prices.

It’s definitely a “buyer’s market” for Ocean City condos this year. Plenty of inventory to choose from. If your personal finances are sound, 2010 might be a good year to talk with an Ocean City Realtor. Shop around carefully, and if you find something you like, make an offer. Don’t expect the value of your condo to shoot back up like the stock market. I don’t think that’s going to happen. It’s going to take time to work off the oversupply. Look at it this way: The stock market is more volatile than the condo market. Stocks will give you heartburn, but you can sit on the balcony at your condo and enjoy the ocean breeze.

Overall, I feel optimistic that Ocean City hotels, restaurants, and boardwalk merchants can have a good season. We’re off to a promising start in early spring. As always, a lot depends on the weather. We’ll take another look at business in the fall, and hope to have good news to report.

— Bernie (John) Hayden

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