There’s a question in many American minds: Where’s the money?; Will there be enough to go around?

Money can mean leaving or staying in and around not only the fabled Podunk, Ia. but also the “glitter gulch” called Las Vegas and wherever Americans call home.
“Just follow the money stupid!” was an oft repeated cliché uttered by media pundits and politicos alike. This phrase and others like it littered the scripts of movies and television shows. “Following money…” was made especially famous during the Watergate era and epitomized by President Richard M. Nixon.

Let us look at just how our home area is doing financially; how can we tell if it’s “boom or bust?”

So, forget your Palm Pilot or your Garmin Navigator and rely not on reams of statistics gracing the local rag nor the bs put out by government flacks but the best information gathering instrument known: your very own “eyeballs” as put by “gunney” in ‘Mail Call.”

According to those in the know in and around the South Sound area of Washington State: There are five, yes just five indicators that will tell you just where your local economy’s heading.

Keep your eyes peeled as you drive around on how many construction cranes you observe. Bruce Mann, a professor of economics at Tacoma’s University of Puget Sound, says these cranes indicate quite strongly of a long term commitment of big money to the area.

He said each project represented by these metal sentinels generate jobs and the projects also mean there’s a certain amount of investor confidence in the area’s future.

Counting cars parked in the mall parking lot and, as told by Evelina Tainer, chief economist for Washington’s Employment Security Department (ESD), measuring how hard it is to find a slot in the lot and then go inside and count the shopping bags carried by mall customers. The bags indicate money being spent, she said.

Stroll or cruise through your neighborhood counting the “For Sale” signs and note how long the signs stay up. In 2006’s hot real estate market, she said, the signs went up and went down in a matter of days and at present it’s weeks. Are the same signs advertising price reductions or buyer bonuses both being indicators of a shift toward a buyer’s market.

The price of gas is another flag pointing the direction the local economy is taking, according to Paul Turek, another ESD economist. He said if gas prices are stable they will not get in the way of an improving economy but when they climb it’s a different story.

For those living near ports and along the interstate highways and railways, another indicator, said Doug Ljungren, business manager for the Port of Tacoma, is the number of 18-wheelers hauling containers or how often have you seen long trains composed of “colorful boxes?”

These “imports represent a collective gamble of all the retailers and what they think will happen in the future” was his conclusion.

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