A busy and walkable downtown plays a unique role in the economic development of a city.
Capitalizing on that concept, Twin Falls is finalizing plans to revitalize five blocks along Main Street in an effort to create a stronger community center. The goal is to engage the community in social and economic activity in a central location through events and amenities. In general, community engagement eventually reaches a critical mass that will then spur additional economic growth by way of thriving property values, new jobs, tourism, and city pride.
The city council unanimously approved a preliminary design in August with the hopes of implementing it over the next two construction seasons. Completion of the project is slated for October of 2017. The first phase, which will begin in the spring of 2016, will focus on improving infrastructure in the area by replacing water, sewer, and utility lines to accommodate current and future businesses. The second phase will attract pedestrians by enhancing walkability. These improvements include new sidewalks, streetscapes, landscaping, and lighting, as well the demolition of a large building to make room for a public plaza.
The city has allocated $100,000 to incorporate public art throughout the project, including an arch across Main Street as an identifying feature of downtown. The total estimated cost of the entire project is estimated to be around $12 million depending on what features are included in the final design.
U.S. Economic Outlook
A week after the Chinese stock market introduced extreme volatility and instability into global markets, U.S. annualized GDP growth for the second quarter of this year was revised upward from 2.3 percent to 3.7 percent. The upward revision reflects lower U.S. government debt, a stronger dollar, higher inventories, and greater government and personal expenditures. In light of lower gasoline prices, a strong labor market, and rising home prices, household wealth and consumer spending are rising. This indicates that the U.S. economy is presently strong enough to weather turbulent global markets, especially since stock markets represent only one aspect of the overall economic picture.
China’s stock market drop in August—likely a market correction—is expected to have little long-term effect on the overall growth of the U.S. economy. Underlying economic drivers in the United States are consistently getting stronger. Employment numbers continue to register increases in non-farm industries. Unemployment numbers remain at historic lows. Home prices are slowly but steadily increasing. Gasoline prices, absent day-to-day fluctuations, have mostly stabilized and returned to historical price trends.
Oil prices have declined in recent months, but at a much steadier rate than we saw in the second half of last year—apart from some volatility at the end of August and beginning of September. The oil supply is expected to increase despite low prices. In the absence of sanctions, Iran started to pump more oil to make up lost market share and revenues from years of closed markets. Saudi Arabia shows no intention of decreasing oil production to keep prices high because it is unwilling to lose market share. While the OPEC cartel is designed to control prices by restricting output, enforcement is difficult: as Saudi Arabia saw in the ’80s, other oil-producing countries are unlikely to decrease production.
Although the United States is experiencing steady economic growth, struggling economies in Brazil, Greece, and China have a negative impact on the global economic trajectory.
Brazil’s GDP shrank by 1.9 percent in the second quarter of 2015—the biggest decline since 2009. In the past year, Brazil’s economy has contracted by 2.6 percent. In July, the unemployment rate rose to 7.5 percent, up from 4.9 percent just a year earlier. Brazilian inflation remains high, and GDP will likely continue to shrink.
Greece has recently started a third necessary bailout after months of negotiations. The difficulty of passing austerity measures and collecting taxes has put Greece on the brink of default numerous times in the past several months. While the immediate threat of default has subsided, uncertainty about Greece’s place in the Eurozone introduces uncertainty in global markets that are connected to Greece directly and through the Eurozone.
China has taken center stage in global markets recently. The good news about China’s situation is that many economists and analysts have indicated that business transactions and growth in China are still strong. Recent volatility is seen as temporary and relatively minor. China’s stock market is still higher than it was a year ago, and underlying growth, while slowing, is positive: consumers in China are still buying iPhones and watches, and consumers in the U.S. are still buying items made in China.
As these three countries resolve their economic difficulties, the global economy in general and the long-term U.S. economy specifically will continue to grow.