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Are there bright spots in today's news?


March 22, 2008   

Hardly a day goes by that we aren’t painfully reminded of the state of our local, national and global economy.

We dread each new day’s revelations and delight, at least momentarily, when a piece of good news creeps onto the front pages.

That’s why we decided several weeks ago to begin looking for Kyrene Corridor businesses whose owners envision an inevitable return to economic stability, and have demonstrated their confidence in tangible ways.

These are the people—many of whom are already investing in the future—that we’ll be profiling in this and coming issues.

From such obvious enterprises as real estate and automobile sales to the operators of small, independent businesses, a noticeable spark of optimism seems to be catching hold.

Chapman Automotive Group, owners of a number of successful dealerships Valley-wide, has announced plans to open a BMW sales center near Ray Road and 56th Street.

ReMax Achievers, one of the area’s longtime real-estate brokerages, has opened a huge new office complex to house potentially hundreds of Realtors.

Small businesses like Bunna Coffee and Putsy’s Chicken & Steak, have moved ahead aggressively with plans to add or expand—Bunna with a weekend brunch to accommodate a growing clientele, Putsy’s with the plan to launch a third new location near the ASU campus (a second, spin-off site, Silver Mine Subs, opened two weeks ago in the Home Depot center at Warner and Kyrene roads).

Perhaps it is in real estate where economic conditions seem to be generating the greatest wave of new interest.

“Right now, there are exceptional buying opportunities for homebuyers,” says Jeff Lucas, broker for the long-established Lucas Realty firm that recently linked its ERA affiliation with East Coast brokerage Hunt Realty.

Although sales are admittedly down and inventory is up, Lucas says the arrival of the traditionally active spring real estate season “should bring a bump in sales from March through mid- to the end of June.”

Lucas also notes that, while homesellers typically are taking less for their properties than they did 2-3 years ago, they’re getting substantial price reductions on the next home they buy.

“If the seller is moving up in price (for the next home), they’re likely to get a better discount than what they gave up on the one they sold.”

His view of the future is no less optimistic.

“The strength of our real estate market lies in a very balanced economy in terms of our vibrant business sector,” he said.

“Additionally, we continue to have very strong net in-migration, which is building the population base and bringing homebuyers into the market.

“We’re going to get through this (economic downturn) at a much more rapid pace than cities in other parts of the country that don’t have all the assets and resources we do.”

Kris Cartwright, one of the group of ReMax Achievers Realtors who has relocated to the new ReMax complex, says the sprawling facility just off Chandler Boulevard has created new excitement among those who have made the move.

"This market is again allowing first-time homebuyers the opportunity to get into an affordable home,” said Cartwright.

“In Economics it’s called the trickle-down theory but this is more of a ‘trickle-up’ theory, as the lower-end homes sell, which stimulates the market for larger homes.  

“I’m very excited about the movement in the $150,000-$250,000 price range, and I’m starting to see movement in the next price level up as well. 

“Today’s home sellers cannot look at what things sold for 2-3 years ago; they have to compare what their home can sell for today and what a great deal they get when purchasing their new home.”

Cartwright said the changing market requires real estate agents to be innovative in their use of technology and to look for ways to market themselves and the homes they have listed.

Marketing gets the client’s property in front of potential buyers and motivates them to take action by using their computer to search for additional information, she said 

“Today’s buyers are doing a lot of research on their own, and we have to understand how to use the Internet to our advantage.  

“Our new ReMax office has large, flat-screen monitors in each conference room that allow us to showcase properties to our potential buyers prior to driving out to actually look at homes. 

“It helps buyers to narrow down the properties they really want to spend time visiting in person,” she said.

Like many others, Cindy Dach of Changing Hands Bookstore remains upbeat about Tempe.

“Google just moved here, Arizona State University is growing upward, young people are coming here because it’s affordable and businesses see nothing but opportunity.”

Dach added that Tempe is not a one-industry town, is well diversified and, unlike some other parts of the Valley, is in a unique position.

Recent housing statistics support Dach’s observation. Tempe has the lowest foreclosure rate in the Phoenix metropolitan area (2.8 per 1,000 people) and home values have remained relatively stable.

Tim Vasquez, owner of the Someburros restaurant chain, is so optimistic about the future he just opened another location in Chandler.

“People still like to eat out and don’t have a lot of time. They make adjustments. We offer high quality fast Mexican food that is inexpensive. When people cut back on eating out, (it relates to) eating out at expensive restaurants.”

Matt Henneberger, one of seven investor-owners of Putsy’s, shares the same positive outlook for the future.

He says his company’s location on Warner Road next to Picazzo’s has experienced five successful months following its opening by offering restaurant-quality food at a low price-point, noting that times require paying close attention to the issues of quality and affordability.

For business owners looking for guidance in the face of current economic conditions, noted author Bill McKibben will be at Changing Hands at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 25.

McKibben visualizes a future in which local businesses compete more effectively with big-box retailers, at the same time build strength of the local community and enable a greater potential for sustainability.

Be sure to let us know how your business is investing in the future; we’ll use selected details in forthcoming issues.


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