By Mike Green

One of my good habits is surrounding myself with smart, successful friends and employees. One of my bad habits is that I am a news junkie. What do the two have to do with the economy?

When I watch the news or read newspapers, I am almost too depressed to get out of bed in the morning and go to the office. According to the pundits, everyone is unemployed, bankrupt or about to be bankrupt. However, when I talk to my friends and colleagues around the country I get a different picture. When I travel for business, reality is, I see a country that seems to be doing really, really well. Who is right?

Recently, I attended the Rotary Awards luncheon to recognize the 10 fastest growing businesses in my area. That list included a custom home builder, a private jeweler who only makes house calls, an interior decorating firm and a landscape company. What do all four of these companies have in common? They all sell products that you purchase with discretionary income. According to the news media, there is no discretionary income. If the economy is so bad, why are the companies that are growing the fastest, those selling items we do not even need? In the past week, I have had calls for our mystery shopping services from two different extremely high end watch companies (average price over $4,000), a solar panel company and a very high end nationwide boutique. Again, companies selling very expensive products that say their business is booming.

I watched a 60 Minutes program recently that focused on the growing size of our homes. The average family is getting smaller (3.7 people) but the average home has grown by 50% in the last 30 years. The newspaper just reported that building permits are up 8% and new home sales are up 3%. People are knocking down 2,000sq. ft. homes to build 5,000 sq. ft, homes in their place. In TX, the 10,000 sq. ft. home is not unusual any more. Aaron Spelling’s home in Beverly Hills just sold for $150,000,000 to an heiress who will only live there part time. And the economy is bad?

I travel regularly for business. The planes have never been more crowded, even though airfare is at record levels and they are now charging us for everything under the sun. I recently flew to Australia where the airfare for coach was well over $1,300 per seat even when purchasing two months in advance. The plane was sold out both ways, but not with businessman as expected. Most of the plane was filled with families traveling with multiple children flying around the world on vacations. School was not even out for the summer yet. For a family of four, that is $5,200 just in airfare. And the economy is bad?

So is the economy good or bad? In certain areas of the country, I have no doubt there are problems. However, ignore the media for a week or two and then answer that question honestly on your own.

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