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|Bankers say local economy healthy|
Concordia bankers say the local economy is still healthy but urge everyone to watch over their finances carefully in 2009.
"We don't need to be overly optimistic about the economy but need to do what we normally do to take care of business," said Pat Biglane, President and CEO of Concordia Bank.
He said both businesses and individuals need to make sure their spending habits shift from the credit side to the savings side right now.
Wanda Wiggins, Chief Financial Officer for Delta Bank, said her biggest concern is interest rates.
"They are so low right now that we're worried about our customers who live on interest income," said Wiggins. "It's hurting right now and it's hard for us to pay higher rates."
She's said a large percentage of the population in this area is made up of older residents who depend on interest income.
Overall, Wiggins said the local economy has not suffered from the huge up or down swings that have been recorded nationally.
"We have plenty of money for borrowers and we don't have the issues with the credit crunch you're seeing nationally," she said. "Hopefully, we'll see the economy back to normal by the end of 2009."
Tensas Bank Senior Vice-President Mark Miller said 2008 "has not been a very good year. We're pretty rooted in the agricultural economy, which is dependent on weather and crop prices that are beyond our control."
The disastrous agriculture year, said Miller, was the result of dry weather earlier in the season followed by back-to-back hurricanes.
"We would have had a good crop year despite the dry weather if we had not had the hurricanes," said Miller. "But the successive hurricane damage was great."
He said this region's economy has been "isolated by the fact that most banks are community banks and many of the bigger problems people see in the news only apply to us indirectly. The larger problems on Wall Street involving the credit crunch are not really affecting us much."
"There is no real shortage of lending funds," he said. "Our lending is largely unaffected and we're using the same underwriting standards."
While lower gas prices have been a local bright spot, Miller said at some point "this will be bad for the oil industry and could trickle down to offshore jobs."
Biglane said he thinks that the difficulties due to weather this past farming season will be overcome with better conditions.
"We have some seasoned farmers out there who know how to deal with these things," said Biglane. "We hope the weather is better next year."
Overall, he said everyone should "play defense. Just watch what you do and take care of business."
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