Monday, July 11, 2011

Can You Feel the Despair?

It's now Day 11 of Shutdownpocalypse. And the despair is palpable.

Well, not really. Chances are that if you only deal with the government on an as-needed basis, you haven't even noticed it that much. Especially coming into St. Paul, traffic is noticeably lighter. You don't get the highway travel information from MnDOT, but the local radio stations are finding ways to improvise.

Are there people who are suffering? Sure. The businesses in downtown St. Paul that cater to state workers aren't enjoying things much, as the Star Tribune reports:

State workers and their much-sought-after dollars have disappeared from St. Paul since the shutdown began, sending businesses scrambling to survive. They are cutting hours and staff and hoping the stalemate resolves itself before sharp declines in sales send them nosediving toward oblivion.

"I don't know even if we're going to make it for rent next month," said Alinda Saurez, of Pickerman's Soup and Sandwiches in the Securian Building skyway.

Many lunch spots downtown are being hit especially hard. They've relied heavily on the state offices just steps away, including the departments of Public Safety, Health, Employment and Economic Development, and a Driver and Vehicles Services office.

Matt Kramer, president of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, estimates the shutdown has taken about 3,000 state workers away from downtown. Businesses can probably endure for a week or two, but anything longer is concerning, he said.

"It's really important to remember that we have a very fragile economic recovery," Kramer said. "If you're a small retail operation ... people would be amazed how thin the margins are. If your business goes down 30 percent, you're going to have to make some significant adjustments on the spot."
I don't doubt any of that, especially the margins for skyway retailers, who tend to pay significant rent for the ability to reach people on a very limited basis. And it is unfortunate that such businesses are suffering, especially since all this could have been avoided.

Of course, were a major downtown St. Paul employer to pull up stakes, the impact would be the same initially, and worse in the long run. The government workers will come back eventually. If Securian or Ecolab or the Travelers left, these same merchants would likely be out of business, too.


Night Writer said...

To date, my daughter hasn't been able to tie her drivers test to get her license, and I've not been able to go into the prison for Bible study. (Meanwhile, the DOC isn't allowing any visitors at all, including family, to go in. I have it on good authority that this is a huge blow to morale and that this increases tension in what is already a volatile environment.)

So, my family has been inconvenienced while other families are doing without paychecks, all because of a governor who's never had to live within any means can't grasp how important it is for a state to do so.

Gino said...

i hope this doesnt affect Key's Cafe.

Night Writer said...

Gino, I suspect Key's on Robert will be ok; they're not really in the epicenter of the state employee lunching grounds (or breakfast) and have a pretty loyal clientele from all walks and draws customers from outside of downtown. Maybe I'll get over there this weekend and take a look-see myself to see how they're doing.

Margins in the restaurant business are pretty thin, though. Perhaps even to the point where a missing coffee mug can make a difference at the end of the month!

Gino said...

i cant wait to return and complete the set before they go under.