American business rolls on despite Washington meltdown

2013-10-20T00:00:00Z 2013-12-18T16:20:16Z American business rolls on despite Washington meltdownBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

Despite the best efforts of Washington politicians to cripple U.S. economic growth, American businesses are overcoming all odds to build a sustained recovery. 

Nowhere is that more true than in the residential housing industry, where the rolls of Realtors are again on the upswing and construction trades workers are back on home building sites.

"We've had a good run," said Bill McCabe, broker/owner at Century 21 Executive Realty, in Schererville. "Consumer confidence is up and people feel good."

McCabe's confidence was reflected in an October survey of 24 members of The Times Board of Economists, whose ratings of the current state of their business sectors and the future of the economy overall were well above one year ago.

Grocery stores continue to operate on the tightest margins of any industry, but that hasn't kept Strack & Van Til from expanding its presence in Northwest Indiana and Illinois, said David Wilkinson, president of SVT, the parent company of the stores.

In May, the grocery company opened its expanded and refurbished headquarters in Highland, a $4 million project. In July, it opened a new Strack & Van Til grocery store in Cedar Lake. And in January a new store will be opened in Prospect Heights, Ill.

"It's very competitive," Wilkinson said. "It's probably more competitive than it has been in years. But overall it's healthy."

Radio One Communication General Manager Jennifer Finnerty was one of a number of business managers at the meeting saying her business will be hiring this year.

"Overall we are happy where we are heading and where we have come from," she said.

Altogether, five of 24 business leaders surveyed expect to see hiring at their companies this year with only one planning on reducing staff. Eleven expected to be making more capital expenditures at their businesses and only one planned to reduce them.

And despite the gloomy outlook from Washington D.C., some members highlighted the fact the nation is finally meeting some of its long-term challenges.

Oil and natural gas production is reaching record highs in North America, moving the United States closer every day to the goal of energy independence.

"The U.S. has actually become more an exporter of crude than an importer," said Tom Collins, president of Luke Oil. "That is unprecedented in our history."

And on Main Street USA, business is up at small retailers like Rosemary's Heritage Flowers, in Crown Point. And with the holidays just around the corner, optimism abounds among small retailers.

"We greet customers with love and hugs," said owner Rosemary De St. Jean.

Perhaps Washington politicians should try that.

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