Panel discusses economy's local impact

Tuesday, October 7, 2008 | 8:38 p.m. CDT; updated 11:11 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Graduating students might have to put their dreams on hold during financially troubled times. That was the daunting message from a panel of business professionals and professors addressing the financial crisis Tuesday afternoon at MU.

"It obviously is a tough job market," said Karen Schnatterly, an assistant professor of management. "I think if there's something that you have an aspiration to do, I would strongly suggest reconsidering and thinking about a job you can do for a couple of years. Just doing anything to get through until things pick up — even though we don't have any idea of when that will be — is a really good idea."

"What can you do that is okay for you, but not necessarily great?" she asked.

Though some jobs markets will hold, panelist Bill Little said, others are not as sound.

"If you were going to Wall Street, you've got a problem," said Little, the president of Illionois-based speaker company, Quam-Nichols Co.

It was just one sentiment from the Dean's Business Issues panel, held by the MU's Trulaske College of Business for over 500 students, faculty and other Columbia residents. Among other issues, the business professionals discussed the causes of the financial crisis, the doubt surrounding the recently passed bailout bill and how the financial crisis would take its toll on Columbia's economy.

"The impact on Columbia, as opposed to national markets, I think the impact will be less," said Andrew Beverley, CEO of First National Bank and Trust. "The employment base here tends to be safer. We have the university, insurance companies and our unemployment rate here is lower. But maybe the biggest reason is that there is not as much of a housing bubble."

Despite affordable housing, house sales and commercial real estate development are down, Beverly said. He pointed out that a few years ago the projected number of house sales in Columbia was set at 2900. In 2008, it is expected only 1700 homes will be sold.

Effects of Wall Street turmoil, which further developed today as the stock market dropped 500 points, have yet to fully permeate the mainstream market, Little said.

"I don’t think, to this point, that the crisis has had much affect on the real economy, but I don’t think it can possibly last like that," Little said. "It will be fear, the lack of confidence and concern. There will be business like mine that come to the decision that we ought to start taking some defensive actions ... I think that it changes your mood and it's very hard to go to the office and feel confident and improve investments and improve hiring."

While the panel criticized the "haste" with which Congress passed the bailout bill, they had no sure-fire remedy for the financial situation in mind.

"There is this lump of pain that has to be endured," assistant finance professor W.D. Allen said. "Possibly, this $700 billion will ... spread it out over time so it becomes a only dull ache. But who is going to bite the bullet? I think, in the end, that all of us are going to bite the bullet."

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