Economist says Augusta shouldn't worry

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, January 18, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Fears of a recession are high around the country, but Augusta's outlook is a little better.

"I wanna sell it," said Ken Richards, about a house his company is building in Evans.

He says business has slowed down over the past six months.

"Lost a lot of sleep, a lot of worry, but in this business you have to worry a lot," he said.

He wishes he'd known when sales were starting to slow down, so he had known when to build fewer houses.

"If we had a crystal ball, we would have known which direction to take," he said.

But even without a crystal ball, Augusta's housing market is in better shape than many others around the country.

"I think it's always a great time to live in Augusta," said Dr. Mark Thompson, an economist at Augusta State University.

He says because our area didn't have the big boom that other housing markets did, we won't have the big bust, either.

He says average housing prices in our area are still appreciating, just not at as high a rate as before.

Dr. Thompson says right now the housing market is one of the biggest factors of a local economy. The other biggest one? Job growth.

"Actual number of jobs are increasing from month to month, and that's a good sign in a local economy," he said.

He says our labor market is more stable than the country as a whole, with no extreme highs and lows.

So overall, how does our area look?

"For the most part, people of Augusta don't need to worry," Dr. Thompson said.

And even though worrying is something Richards does, he believes his business is picking up.

"I'm the most optimistic person you're ever gonna meet,"

He says soon he'll be able to place a "sold" sticker on the "available" sign outside the house.

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