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Businesses say Douglas economy is doing well, despite concerns elsewhere | Regional News

It’s a hot, busy summer in Douglas and it seems much busier than usual – just park in the parking lot of any convenience store or gas station in town and you’ll find it almost packed at any hour of the day. Vehicle plates read like state names listed in a road atlas: Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Texas, Idaho, Louisiana and more.

While most economists are reluctant to say with certainty that the United States is in a recession, there is no doubt that living expenses have increased exponentially in recent months. Most people would agree that it is becoming increasingly difficult for Americans to make ends meet with the prices of groceries and gasoline.

New York Times economist Ben Casselman wrote last week that the United States is not in a recession, at least “probably” not.

Casselman said: “Economic output, as measured by gross domestic product, fell in the first quarter of the year. Government data may show it also fell in the second quarter. Such a two-quarter decline would fit a common, albeit unofficial, definition of a recession.

“Most economists still don’t think the United States meets the formal definition, which is based on a broader set of indicators, including measures of income, spending and job growth. But they are not as sure as they were a few weeks ago. The housing market has slowed sharply, incomes and spending are struggling to keep pace with inflation, and a closely watched measure of layoffs has begun to rise,” he wrote on July 26.

BUSINESS IS GOOD

Several business owners and managers in Douglas said the local economy is doing well despite the state of the economy.

Jen Pollack is co-owner of Restaurant Central, which includes Grasslands Market, Ranahan Steakhouse and the Liquor Cabinet.

“The local economy has recovered. We’ve definitely seen it pick up at (Ranahan’s). People want to go out. At Grasslands, we had about the same number of people coming through the doors. I would say that’s pretty consistent with the last two years, not counting Covid,” she said. “A lot of families are going through town. If you look at the plates, they come from everywhere.

Jen said she’s been lucky with her downtown bookstore, Jen’s Books, because although walk-in traffic has been quite low due to downtown construction, it also sells books. online – and it helps.

She recently had regular in-person customers at the bookstore — all the way from West Virginia.

“They told me they were here years ago for their honeymoon. They returned with five children. They were just the nicest people,” she said of visiting family.

Walk-in traffic for downtown businesses has decreased this summer due to street resurfacing on 2nd and 3rd.

“It’s difficult for all the businesses with the roads closed,” she said.

Construction should be completed before the start of the Wyoming State Fair (which is only two weeks away) according to the City of Douglas’s director of planning and community development, Clara Chaffin.

BOOM OR STATUS QUO?

Jen’s husband, Ed Pollack, said he believed there was an increase in business from a year ago, due to an increase in oilfield and energy industry traffic since March or April.

Others agree, including 1st Interstate Inn Manager Shelly Rutten.

Rutten said he also saw an increase in the number of energy industry workers at the 43-room hotel in March and April.

“Our activity is better than last year. We have more energetic people. Some construction workers. A bit of tourism. There are not many families, they opt for bigger places with swimming pools,” she said. “I think (the energy industry) is busy right now, but not as busy as we’re going to see next year. Personally, I see it as the energy (boom) will come back. It may be wishful thinking.

The hostel is not yet complete, but “it’s starting to increase. We have people starting to book for the state fair,” Rutten said.

Village Inn restaurant owner Dave Angiolillo said his business is also doing very well at the moment.

“Business is good. Sales are good. We had double-digit sales in the first six months of the year. Now we’re about even for the year. One of the best things that has happened to the local economy, which has helped my business, is Door Dash. Carry-out represents 20% of my business. A lot of people call and pick up their food in the evening or have it delivered. About a quarter of this sum is the sales of Door Dash. I was very happy to see them come to our community and start delivering. I knew that delivering would be the way to increase my business in the future,” he said. declared.

When asked if high gas prices had affected his business this year, Angiolillo said no.

“I don’t think economic factors have hurt my business – my business is doing well.”

Although business is good for the restaurant owner, he continues to have staffing issues, he said – a likely postponement of the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is always a shortage of good help. People who have been with me for a while are good employees. Others . . . when they decide to leave, they say it’s easy – they’ll just look for another job because there are so many jobs available. Even with good benefits, like sick pay, retirement, vacation, it’s hard to get people to stay. I’ve had a lot of turnover and hired a lot of new employees over the past year,” he said.

STILL HIGH GAS PRICES

As of August 1, the lowest regular gasoline price in Douglas was at Maverick (Yellowstone Hwy.) at $4.33/gallon, while the highest price was listed at Sinclair (1728 E. Richards) at $4.55/gallon. Compare those prices in Casper, just 45 minutes away on I-25 — which range from $3.57/gallon (Sam’s Club) to $4.18/gallon at the Exxon station on E. Yellowstone Hwy.

Based on the Douglas average of $4.40/gallon and the Casper average of $3.66/gallon, Douglas is considerably higher by 0.74 cents per gallon (regular gas prices based on those published by gasbuddy.com on August 1 and first-hand in-person recording).

Still, it’s a drop in gas prices, which hopefully is a good sign. A month ago, gas prices in Wyoming were at an average high of $4.90 to $5.19, according to AAA’s website: https://gasprices.aaa.com