What do you see in the economic future of Reno?

There is something happening here and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?  Bobby, I hope I remembered your words accurately, it has been a long time since you sang them.  Over the course of the last 40 years or so, I have used those words to frame some issue developing around me that I could not understand.  They lend themselves easily to debates in Congress, international events and now that I am so totally disconnected from pop-culture many more common things, like television programs, advertising and lots of new “stuff.”

Lately I have been using them to help me express my feelings about the economy.   For most of my adult life, the American economy has been growing and expanding – maybe not at all times, but certainly as broad trend.  I did not live through economic turmoil of the beginning of the 20th century, the first world war, the depression and the second world war – I was alive for WWII, but not aware of it.   I came into awareness in the 1950s when everything was going hucklety buck – and even though at times my family was on the sidelines of the prosperity, I felt myself to be part of the great American economic machine and its potential.  And once I started to work I always  believed I could succeed, I too, could own all of those things, climb those hills and maybe even become president of the United States – that one went away about the time I was 40 years old, by then I was pretty sure I would never be president of anything – but the dream of success and wealth persisted.

That is the major reason the recession is so confusing for me – I cannot see a return to unlimited growth and expansion waiting just beyond the horizon; it may be there, but I can see it.  Of course one of the reasons is my age – I am no longer the young man standing at the starting line imaging a marvelous future. Old men worry about their health and death they don’t dream of future glory.  I have a friend who wonders if I can image a romance in my future – and I cannot, no more than I can image becoming president or joining the Buffet-Gates club committed to giving away billions of dollars before they die.  No here I am, stuck in my own time and age, trying to understand what is happening in the economy and wondering about the future.

Maybe at an international level, on a grand scale, I could read all that is written, follow the trends on Wall Street and track the Chinese economy and make some predictions – in fact some days I do do exactly that.  But back here at home in Reno, Nevada I cannot see down the road – some days not even a week or two in advance.  This week I have been walking more and in the middle of the day.  Strolling is probably more accurate, I have been just wandering around the streets and looking at things, watching people and trying to feel my world.  Since the days in the late 1970s and early 80s, downtown Reno has changed a great deal.  In those days the downtown was dominated by the casino industry – but today 90 percent of the casinos that existed have gone.  Some have been replaced by condominium projects, some by parking lots and some by a wide variety of small businesses.

However it is not just the casinos and that part of town that has changed.  There is as much and possibly more change taking place elsewhere.  There are two separate small business districts that have developed in recent years –  California Avenue and a few blocks of South Virginia Street.  Like other parts of town, there are empty buildings and empty lots in both districts – but there is also constant commercial activity.   There are restaurants,  retail shops, bars, tattoo parlors and other small business that come and come and go with amazing speed.   Unlike the big box stores that when they close the location remains empty for a long time – some times years – small store fronts, at least in these areas, seem to easily find some new entrepreneur willing to take a risk.  Within a few blocks on South Virginia there are two or three new restaurants that opened this summer and at least as many others being remodeled.  Of course each of those means that some other business closed – and this is why it is so confusing.

The general economic news is consistent – things are bad, banks won’t lend, big companies won’t invest, sales are down, consumer confidence is sliding, housing sales and new construction is at all time lows and the stock market is a roller coaster.  But in the area near my office, the old down town, California Avenue and South Virginia, that is not what I see.  I see people with energy, enthusiasm and money to invest. busily opening a businesses – they are selling soups and crepes, drinks and entertainment, Russian Orthodox art and books, wigs and trendy outfits, Halloween and Burning Man costumes and a lot more – it is an amazing variety of commercial activity.  Mr. Jones and I have no idea what is happening, but we are enjoying everything it brings. I think if I was 30 years old I would see a very bright and exciting future developing before my eyes.


1 Response to “What do you see in the economic future of Reno?”

  1. 1 Stuck on You Wall Art Commercial Trackback on October 13, 2011 at 11:34 am

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