Sunday, April 27, 2008

Non prime Boll Weevil

Early in the 20th century in Enterprise, Alabama, life was good. Cotton was king and had made a lot of folks in Coffee County wealthy. They shipped more cotton around the world than most other locales. Then one harvest season the farmers went out to pick their cotton. They found that the Mexican boll weevil had made its way into Alabama and had stopped off in Enterprise. The weevil took about 1/4th of the cotton crop that year. The people rallied and dusted and sprayed over the next year and by the next harvest the weevil had taken 1/2 of the crop.

Folks began to be concerned. They held a meeting and decided that they would turn their attention elsewhere. They experimented with various new crops. Some planted corn, others soy beans, wheat, rye and so forth. It became clear that one particular crop seemed to flourish. That was the peanut. Simultaneously, a young chemist at Tuskegee Institute named George Washington Carver began to experiment with the peanut. He developed 26 industrial applications for the peanut and its by-products. Some few years later the farmers in Enterprise shipped more peanuts than anywhere else. They became wealthier than they had been before. The region is the largest supplier of peanuts in the world to this day. They hold a peanut festival in Dothan and elect a peanut queen every year.

In the town square of Enterprise there resides a one of a kind of monument. A large and majestic statue of a lady holding a plate. On the plate, in a prominent display, is a replica of the boll weevil. Written on the plaque are words to this effect: " We, the citizens, of Coffee County, Enterprise, Alabama erect this statue in great appreciation to the boll weevil, harbinger of opportunity."

What an interesting story. We find ourselves in a bit of a pickle in the world of real estate currently. Our boll weevil is, or was, the non-prime lenders who precipitated the end of a boom period in the business. It had to happen. We did not anticipate when or how it would play out but those of us in the business knew it had to happen.

Real estate seems to be the center piece in the overall slowing down of the economy. The 6:00 news has feature after feature on how bad it is all over. Admittedly, spring time has not brought about the sales numbers of the last few years here in Tallahassee.

So what happens next? People still need housing. There are still buyers and sellers who are a little more cautious than they used to be. Not in recent years has the professional in this business been more important to the process. To go it alone in this new economy is to put yourself at risk.

There will be those in this business who will adapt a new way of going forward. They will be successful and make more money than they ever have. There will be those who will fall by the wayside as they cling to their old habits and regimens. Mankind comprises the impetus that drives this planet for a reason. Better put, mankind is in charge because of the ability to reason, adapt and innovate.

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