A funny current TV ad depicts Jack, the plastic-headed fast-food chain “owner,” taking a tumble while shooting his own commercial to save money.
Getting to his feet, he says, “I can’t WAIT for this recession to be over.”
Don’t we all. Go into any East Valley fast-food place and you’ll hear any number of economic conversations, all with the central hope of: When exactly is the end?
Pundits and professors of various degrees of expertise have filled the news with predictions about the start of the economic recovery. Most all agree that Arizona — always identified in news reports as one of the “hardest-hit states” — will be among the last to come back.
Yet all the expert predictions are carefully imprecise. Most get no more detailed than by year, and often those come in twos: “2013 or 2014.”
Others cover all possibilities: “When your grandchildren retire.” “When the Cubs win the World Series.” “When Donald Trump shaves his head.”
Some more brave calls involve quarters, but you don’t see a recovery date in there, just obscure indicators: “By the fourth quarter, you’ll see some uptick in ski wear.”
I’m no economist, so I wouldn’t blame you if you take this declaration with a significant degree of skepticism: Today is the turning point. Starting now, the East Valley is officially on the way out of the recession. (Told you that you’d be skeptical.)
Now, the doubter would properly first ask how I know this, especially when so many more qualified people have been making predictions for some time, all over the scale.
But that is where recovery begins, as a bunch of us are pointing in different directions.
The East Valley finds itself at this point, amid a basketful of mixed signals. You’ve been reading it in the Tribune, from news of bleak jobs pictures for new college grads to growing numbers of employers saying they plan to hire. From a revival of sorts on Tempe’s Mill Avenue and East Valley hotels seeing more reservations to rising gasoline prices that tend to arrest business growth. And while there are a few signs of growth in homebuilding in the East Valley, foreclosures continue to rise, although not by as much.
Recovery begins amid the churn of uncertain direction, where the first to venture out — call them brave or foolish or simply first — try to make something work because, like Jack, they’re just tired of it all. They’ve decided that the good times begin now, with them.
The only missing ingredient is the rest of us deciding the same thing.
For the East Valley, it will take a much larger sense of place, a sense of home, a sense of here. Even though growth has slowed, we are still a spot people hold off on deciding whether it’s their home even after they’ve lived here for several years. Members of our sports teams, even when they’re winning, should no longer look up into the home stands to see more people cheering for their opponents.
Much about recent Arizona politics and policy have signaled to others that this isn’t a desirable place to live. But such things are only a part of life here, thank goodness, and it’s time we start concentrating on those things that still make millions of people wish they lived here.
That will be the start of the recovery. And it could very well start today.
Mark J. Scarp is a contributing columnist for the Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.