Corridor leader: ignore the market mayhem

Monday, February 12, 2018

The leader of the Iowa Lakes Corridor is telling local communities not to be too concerned about the drastic plummets of the Dow Jones.

“The economy is doing nicely. Disregard what is happening on Wall Street,” CEO Kiley Miller said in a meeting with the Alta City Council Tuesday, the day following a record-setting 1,175 point stock-market decline.

“Then two days later, we had another 1,000 point drop,” he told the Pilot-Tribune. “But I still feel confident that this is the market basically returning to trend. Valuations had gotten very high, and it’s natural to have a period of correction and profit taking.”

Still, for investors lulled to sleep by the steady upward climb in the markets since Trump’s election, the situation was alarming, and triggered ripples in the markets around the world.

The sell-off wiped out the Dow and S&P 500 gains from early in the year, and left the Nasdaq barely in the black for 2018.

The White House said in a statement that President Trump was focused on “our long-term economic fundamentals, which remain exceptionally strong.”

In fact, it’s the very strength of the economy that seems to have touched off the market free-falls. Wall Street grew nervous that the boom could touch off inflation for the first time in years, and force interest rates to climb.

“The macroeconomics are relevant, I’d never say they aren’t, but I can tell you that we’re seeing strong activity among the employers of our area, and as we walk to them, they are expressing tremendous confidence in the economy,” Miller said. “In our Best of Iowa interviews, we spoke to 22 large employers around the region, and 16 said they expect growth - not just higher revenue but physical expansion of their companies - in 2018. That says a lot.”

The biggest concern - at least for northwest Iowa - isn’t the stock market, but a lack of workers. “That’s the chief need for the region - there is room in the economy to absorb more skilled workers. Companies can’t expand without the workforce.”

Unemployment figures also remain positive, but Miller feels they are something of “a false God” cited by The rates only show those who are unemployed and searching for work. It’s easy to make those figures look good because they don’t include those who have given up and dropped out of the workforce pool, he says. He says he prefers to seek out workforce participation figures.

“It’s more about attitude. There are always headwinds,” Miller said of the economy. “In northwest Iowa, probably more worrisome than stocks are the commodity prices.

“The low grain prices are our headwind, because so much of our wealth is related to the land, and so much of our business sells into the agriculture field.”

On the plus side, entrepreneurial interest in the area seems very strong, Miller side.

The Corridor has worked with 168 entrepreneurial clients in the four counties with 78 new companies created. In the past year alone, 16 clients in Buena Vista County have worked with the Corridor toward establishing businesses.

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