By Holley Nees - email
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Many East Texans were glad to see 2009 fade in the distance, but for business owners and job seekers, 2010 could be the turning point.
For Chris Luna, owner of Finish Line Sub Shop, 2010 means the end of the 59 construction project and the hope of big business.
"I think everybody in this whole center that everybody's business will pick up," Luna said. "I think people will actually come over to this side of town again."
He says once the road construction started, people stopped fighting to get to the Finish Line.
"The construction happened, and the next week, basically we were non-existent," Luna said.
"The 59 South Project, which has affected some of the sales obviously, that'll be complete in the spring and traffic will be free-flowing again and that will help some of the retailers in those areas," said Jim Wehmeier, Angelina County director of economic development.
Wehmeier says 2009 was a tough year for the local economy, but thinks 2010 brings better days.
"I'm always optimistic, but I also think that we have kind of found the bottom level of what we're going to be seeing and we're starting to gradually grow out of it," Wehmeier said.
He says growth of Lockheed Martin and activity with the former Citation and Abitibi properties are signs the slump is ending.
"A lot of positive things are happening that the employment is starting to pick up some," Wehmeier said. "We've seen a small down-tick in the unemployment rate."
Wehmeier says even the tornado is allowing the economy to heal as East Texans are using local companies to rebuild.
"Obviously if there's damage, there's going to be construction to fix damage, but that doesn't speak to the individuals economic situation," he said.
Overcoming a sour economy will take time, but he says Angelina County will be in a better position for the future.
"I think we're doing some things in the community to set us up to where 2011 should be better yet," Wehmeier said.