Some Idaho business owners say the same thing: recession or recovery, it doesn’t really matter what it’s called, business is slow. Last week we talked with Idaho economists about this idea. Boise State University economics professor Don Holley says labeling trends “recession” or “recovery” does make a difference. “If we were still (technically) in a recession, if things were still going down, it’d be much worse” Holley says. Still, he points out, two years after the recession, Idaho isn’t back to economic productivity seen at the peak in 2007.
Mary Whalen co-owns Junkyard Bistro, a small restaurant in Salmon, Idaho. She feels like the recession is hitting her community now. “Our business is way down compared to what it was in 2009,” Whalen says. She says businesses in Salmon rely on the summer tourism season to make ends meet, and because of a long, wet spring, the season didn’t really start until July. “It (business) usually stays strong until November,” Whalen says, “We’ve already cut back our staff.” The move
is about six weeks premature. “I almost thought the recession might help us because people weren’t traveling out of the country, but doing local trips,” Whalen says. “You can call it whatever you want to, business is down.”
A candy store owner in Weiser is convinced the recession and slow recovery have helped his business. Weiser Classic Candy co-owner Patrick Nauman says people in town are forgoing more expensive luxury items. “They might not have their $5 coffee as often, so instead, they get a really good piece of $0.75 chocolate,” Nauman says. Plus, he finds people are more willing to spend money on a locally made product.
Still, each business I spoke with said it’s taking more work to get the same number of customers. That’s true even at one of the largest ski resorts in Idaho. Jack Sibbach is the director of marketing and public relations at the Sun Valley Resort. He says the best business years for the destination ski hill were 2005, 2006 and 2007. In 2008 Sibbach says the resort was hit hard by a bad snow year and the economic collapse. “We’ve been making slow strides back,” Sibbach says. “The last two winters have been good, not great.” I asked Sibbach if it’s safe to say the ski hill is in recovery mode.
He’s not that optimistic. “We’re making strides, a little bit at a time. We’re optimistic but guardedly so.”