Marketplace Scratch Pad

On The Road Again

Scott Jagow Apr 13, 2009

This week, Marketplace is back on the “Road to Ruin?” Last October, reporters Tess Vigeland and Amy Scott started at opposite ends of the country and met in the middle (St. Louis). They each stopped in five places along the way, talking to Americans about the economy. This week, Tess and Amy are retracing some of their steps.

Amy started in Charlotte, NC once again. This morning, she had coffee with the same group of older folks she met in October. She’ll be reporting on that for the Marketplace shows.

When she was there last fall, the Charlotte area’s unemployment rate was around 7%. Now it’s about 12%. The region’s lost a lot of manufacturing and construction jobs, but of course, it’s a banking town, and that is one nervous workforce.

In October, Amy wrote about the situation with Wachovia and Bank of America:

But just as one of the city’s corporate icons teeters, another thrives. After snapping up Countrywide earlier this year and Merrill Lynch a few weeks ago, Bank of America appears to be one of the few winners to come out of this mess. For now.

For now was right. Wachovia was bought by Wells Fargo a few weeks later. Recently, Wells has been cutting jobs in Charlotte
and more could be on the way. Meanwhile, B of A has struggled with its purchases of Countrywide and Merrill.

Tess started her trip in Salt Lake City. While a lot’s changed in Charlotte, it sounds like things are status quo in Utah. And that’s a good thing. This morning, Tess said Salt Lake’s unemployment rate is still only about 5 percent.

She went back to a restaurant she visited in October, Lamb’s Grill Cafe.
The owner says he doesn’t understand it, but business is great. Tess pointed out that Lamb’s is celebrating its 90th anniversary, so it obviously survived the Great Depression. It can probably get through this too.

Tess is now headed to Lincoln, Nebraska to have dinner with the same family she ate with last year. Amy’s going to Youngstown, Ohio, which Amy pointed out last fall, is “definitely GM country.”
That oughta be interesting.

By the way, when we did this road trip in October, there were a few complaints about the title of the series, Road to Ruin? Some people thought it was unnecessarily negative and perhaps sensationalistic. I wasn’t a fan of it myself, but we did have a question mark with it, so we were just asking the question — do people think that’s where we’re headed?

Most people we interviewed then seemed fairly optimistic, albeit nervous and worried about government bailouts, their retirement and so on. It also depended on where they lived, i.e. Detroit vs Salt Lake. I’m looking forward to hearing what people are saying now.

Kai interviews Tess and Amy on Marketplace PM this evening.

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