County businesses seeing better times
With all the bad news about the economy in the media over the last several years, The Morgan Messenger talked to several local businesses to see if the economy is showing any signs of turning around.
“I like the joke ‘To survive is the new thrive, and we feel like we are surviving,” Gat Caperton said.
Caperton said he is hiring five new employees and sales have
grown 5% each of the last two years. The company now employs 110 workers.
“We have reached the point where the good part of our business is growing fast and the bad part is shrinking,” Caperton said.
He said sales were up from last year in all categories but not quite back to where they were before the economic downturn.
This year, the company received five Governor’s International Marketing Awards for new market entries exporting to
the countries of Australia, Haiti, Japan, West Africa and New
“Business started off slow this year. We didn’t typically have the spring market that you normally have, but it gradually went up,” said Mike Pearse of Kesecker Realty.
Deals are out there for first time homeowners, those who are looking for a second home or a parcel of land, and investors who want to buy to rent or buy to flip a home. One reason is interest rates are the lowest they have ever been, he said.
“Kesecker is doing really well,” Pearse said. “The company added three new agents, which broadened our listing base.”
Pearse shared some realty market statistics for Morgan County from the month of August. During the month, there were 33 new listings, 31 pending sales under contract and 23 closed sales.
“This year is definitely better than last year. We have been busier,” said Lynn Perry of Coldwell Banker.
They are seeing people from the metropolitan areas coming to Morgan County to buy second homes and invest in land.
Perry attributes the upswing in business to low interest rates and the fact the stock market may not be as good an investment as real estate these days.
“People are coming back to real estate,” she said.
Berkeley Cottage Rentals
“We have seen a significant improvement since 2010. Business has definitely picked up,” Stephanie Rebant said.
Rebant attributes the increase to less people flying and the close proximity of Berkeley Springs to Baltimore, Washington and Pittsburgh.
She said the Streetscape improvements and improvements that shop owners have made to their storefronts have helped downtown be more attractive to tourists.
Rebant said overall business was up 20% to 30% over last year and she has hired two additional workers.
Joe Lillard of Washington Homeopathic Products said, “I guess we are doing better. The second half of the year has been better. If current trends continue, it should be better next year.”
Lillard said the company employs 28 people and he will probably hire two or three more next year.
Scott Clark agreed that business is better than last year. “It’s a little better across the board,” he said.
Clark said remodeling projects are up, but the lack of new home construction has hurt the business.
“I have been through a lot of recessions and it takes quite a while for business to get back. You just gradually step one step at a time and it takes a few years,” Clark said.
Clark said they have increased staff by one person this year.
“We are doing a little better than last year, but that is to be expected with this economy,” Virginia Stoller said.
Wayne, Larry and David Omps run a variety of businesses in the county including Colonial Village Industries, Dawson’s Ace Hardware and the Best Western Hotel.
“Some or our businesses are doing well and others aren’t,” Wayne Omps said.
The hotel business has picked up 10% to 15% and additional staff has been hired, he said.
“The hardware business is holding its own. Business is pretty flat. It seems like people are only buying what they need,” he said.
Although the new home construction business is not doing as well as he would like, Omps said they have finished several homes this year and are starting another shortly.
“We have also done some remodeling and additions to existing homes and have not had any layoffs this year,” he said.
“I hope people realize that buying local helps out and keeps us all in business,” Omps said.