We're doing fine in Texas

Recession, recession, recession. It seems to be screaming from the headlines every day. Well, don’t believe everything you read. It’s been a big concern for me as I gauge where our business is and what it should be doing. In a small company, every decision is magnified. That 1 extra hire that turns out to be a bust, or who you let go a couple of months later because of a business downturn, has a significant impact on the whole business and the morale of a close-knit group.

So I’ve increasingly found myself at odds with what I see day to day, and what I read in the paper. Workflow’s in the midst of our biggest expansion ever. We’ve doubled our staff in the last year, expanded our practice and have had record profits. Most recently, you can welcome John Pugh to our staff who will be our Lotus Learning Practice Leader. (We all pick our own titles around here.) John’s done some amazing things with the IBM Learning Management System -> Workplace Collaborative Learning -> Learning Accelerator product set, pick your name du jour. We have more hiring announcements to make in the near term, and I’m very excited about all of them.

But…what about the economy. Isn’t this a rash move. Won’t it all come crashing down on us anytime now? Well, the business says no. We’re choking our growth and running off customers if we don’t act. So, I was relieved when David Bockes (Development Manager, and resident Gears of War multi-player victim) pointed out this USA Today article to me. Yes, parts of the country are experiencing recession symptoms. Many areas are not, in fact, many areas are growing. Texas is one of them.

Texas, where exports account for more than 14% of the state’s economy, has one of the best job growth rates in the country. It’s not only those selling abroad who appear to be benefiting.

Al Bussmann, sales and marketing director at Perfect Lawns and Landworks of Austin, expects business at the firm, which provides lawn maintenance and landscaping services, to grow by double digits this year. He notes that for most people, having someone mow their lawn or plant shrubs is an expense that can be cut in tough times. So the fact that business is growing suggests the local economy is doing well. The city had a 3.6% unemployment rate in December, presenting a challenge to Bussmann’s company.

“Our biggest challenge is hiring people, because the unemployment rate is so low in Austin. Overall, the economy is good,” he says.

The article points out that exports and tourism are big drivers for Texas. The housing crisis isn’t really applicable here as we never really had the run up in prices that the coasts did, and while there is a slowdown in housing starts, there is still a lot of relocation to Texas occurring and those people need places to live.

Funny how the article doesn’t focus on oil and gas. I’m sure for a large part of the US, the impact of higher gas prices is a negative thing. Here though, I think it’s a big contributor to the economic growth. It drives so many businesses, direct and ancillary, that the impact is felt well beyond just traditional oil and gas companies. It’s probably a major factor in our continued growth.

So to borrow a line from a song of my native state of Oklahoma, “You’re doin’ fine, Texas.”