Amid tough times, Raleigh economy experiencing growth

Posted October 6, 2008 5:52 p.m. EDT
Updated October 6, 2008 7:06 p.m. EDT

— If the hustle and bustle on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh means anything, it looks like this Main Street USA is doing OK.

An analysis by Moody's puts Raleigh in the handful of metropolitan areas – 14 percent – that are experiencing economic growth instead of recession.

"Our diverse economy really helps us – that is, that we have lots of different businesses, including small- or medium-sized ones that are growing," Mayor Charles Meeker said. "We also have a lot of health care and education here, and those are very solid businesses, even in hard times."

Mike Walden, an economist at North Carolina State University says the city has been hit, just not as hard as other cities, like Charlotte.

According to Moody's report, the Queen City is one of the nation's 250 metropolitan areas already in a recession. Seventy-six more are at risk.

"Yes, we have suffered through economic downturn, but we haven't suffered as much as many other regions," Walden said.

Some small-business owners in downtown Raleigh, however, say business has been slipping for the past year.

"We've been off considerably, and all the other people I've talked to, other small-businessmen echoed the same sentiments," said Joe Sciolino, who's owned Joe's Place restaurant in downtown Raleigh for 25 years.

So what does Sciolino think about Raleigh's good economic news?

"My dad always said, 'Figures lie and liars figure.' So, I don't believe it," Sciolino said.

He says he hopes that the city's new convention center will help improve business for him and others in downtown Raleigh.

Mayor Meeker says especially given the events on Wall Street in the past month, the city has to greet any positive economic news with cautious optimism.