In the Spotlight

News & Features
Go to Whose Recovery Is It?
DocumentWhose Recovery Is It?
DocumentPart one
Document Part two
DocumentPart three
Document Part four
Document Part five
DocumentPain in the public sector
DocumentThe politics of economics
DocumentVoices from the recovery
DocumentNotebook: Recovery is in the eye of the beholder
AudioMidday: Roundtable on the recovery
Respond to this story

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
Voices from the Minnesota economy
Larger view
Spending on flowers -- a luxury good -- can be one of the first things to dip in a recession, and one of the latter to rebound in a recovery. Rick Morris feels it at Waseca Floral. (MPR Photo/Jeff Horwich)
In preparing for Whose Recovery Is It, Minnesota Public Radio reached out to our audience for their experiences with the economic recovery. Some of those stories found a home in the other pieces of this series, but we still had many great ones to share.

St. Paul, Minn. — Every story tells us something different about the economy we live in. What follows are seven more voices from the Minnesota economy:

FLORIST: Rick Morris, Waseca

Waseca Floral handles small, personal orders, but largely relies on big jobs like weddings, funerals, and corporate functions to pay the bills. Owner Rick Morris says in a rough economy, flowers "are a luxury item for most people. If you're going to cut back on something, we're one of the first things to go."

Business is down about five percent so far this, and was down last year as well. Morris says he can feel the sluggish economy "where we might have had a $1,000 wedding that turns into an $800 wedding, and holidays when corporate clients cut back on their decorating."

Morris has cut back the hours of his two employees, and has taken to doing more deliveries himself rather than hiring a high-school student. But he's hopeful: May, an important month for florists, was strong. And the coming holiday season will let him know if business is getting back on-track.

EXECUTIVE RECRUITER: (Anonymous), Bloomington

This recruiter of top-end technology executives and salespeople spoke on condition he not be identified to his competitors.

It's a game of musical chairs in the tech industry, and most of those chairs are gone in Minnesota.
- Anonymous executive recruiter

He places talent nationwide -- and says that while he is fielding more requests lately from companies in major centers like New York, Boston and San Francisco, he's getting very little business from Minnesota. And he says many businesses might be recuiting -- scouting for talent -- but not actually hiring.

"My major observation would be that it's a game of musical chairs in the tech industry, and most of those chairs are gone in Minnesota right now," he says. "The music stopped in 2001, and a lot of chairs got taken away."

He himself makes much less than he used to, after working for a number of tech start-ups in Minnesota, the last of which failed in 2001. Like many of his acquaintances in their 40s and 50s, he says he had to switch careers to survive. Many are going to work for investment houses, or in the insurance industry.

"The good news is that it's forcing people to be more entrepreneurial," he says. "When you're more entrepreneurial, new ideas come up. And to me, that's the American way."

HANDYMAN: Russell Dedrick, St. Paul

For about five years, Russell Dedrick has been the "Happy Husband Handyman." This isn't the kind of handyman who fixes leaky sinks; Dedrick does big remodeling and repair jobs, both indoors and out.

Larger view
Image Russell Dedrick leans on his investment

Business dipped after 9-11, but dropped off completely after the Wellstone plane crash -- "the straw that broke the economics' back." Dedrick says he does a lot of business in "pretty liberal" neighborhoods of St. Paul, where the crash really depressed people.

Business is now stable, but not comfortable. Dedrick would expect for him and his 12 workers to be booked out for jobs weeks in advance. But this summer, business was often day-to-day. "Steady enough, but not to the point where you're feeling flush," he said.

One of his worries is debt, most of which has been taken on to finance and invest in the business. He recently bought a $40,000 truck, and took out loans amounting to about $240,000 by refinancing his home. To the extent that business keeps flowing his way, he credits investing in advertising and a business networking group that helps steer new customers to The Happy Husband.

NURSE: Dale Buisman, North Branch

Hospital nurses in general are in demand these days, but Dale Buisman is no ordinary nurse. He is a "neonatal nurse practitioner," a specialized field in which he estimates there are fewer than 50 people in the Twin Cities (Buisman works in Burnsville).

So not only is he in a strong and somewhat recession-proof industry -- health care -- but he is trained in a lucrative specialty. Buisman expects to make more than $110,000 this year. He recently received a substantial raise.

Buisman credits continual education and training. He says he was taking some sort of classes on and off from 1978 until 2000, when he received his masters in nursing and certification in his current specialty. When it comes to continued education, he says, "the toughest part is just getting started back to it again."


In downtown Waseca, Don Streed, 80, tells it like it is from behind the counter: "The economy to me couldn't be much better," Streed says.

Larger view
Image Streed: "When you're hot, you're hot."

As for those who are struggling, "That's for everybody (to) get off their butt and find that niche." (Streed, it's worth pointing out, prefers the pronunciation "nick" -- it's one of his favorite terms.)

"For me, I got my own niche," he says. "Just speaking about the jewelry business -- a regular jewelry store would flop out here. But we got services (other jewelers) can't afford to do. I'm a gemologist, and I'm a certified master watchmaker."

Those skills bring Streed business by mail from around the nation. In his life, he has been an engineer, got a law degree, and is a trained pilot. Not short on confidence, he declares, "I can do anything."

"You ever heard of 'build a better mousetrap?" he says. "That's the trick. When you're hot you're hot, and when you're not, you're not. I'm a damn good craftsman, no getting out of that."

HOME APPRAISER: Chris Betcher, Harris

Despite the hot housing market, Chris Betcher has a distinct feeling things are cooling off. He has been running his own appraisal business for almost three years. He says the minute interest rates seemed to be heading north, business dropped. "Literally it was, 'the phone's not ringing, the fax isn't ringing, what's going on?" he says.

Whereas last year the business was taking in up to $25,000 a month, right now he says $3,000 a month is a strong one. Nine or 10 months ago, he had hired some new help just as things started to turn down. "I actually had to tell them, 'Look, I don't have work for you right now. I'll train you, but keep your options open."

Betcher hopes business will return to normal levels within two years. In the meantime, he says "it doesn't seem like we have the recovery that we hear about on TV."


Leann Kispert, who works for a firm in Minneapolis, says from where she sits her industry is struggling. When the economy turns down or is uncertain, advertising is an expense many companies put on-hold.

"In their mind, they're weighing things like, 'Do I keep a couple employees or do I do an advertising campaign,'" she says. "You can see where advertising often gets some of the first cuts when thing start getting scary economically." She predicts "cautious" growth for this year and next.

Kispert herself was laid off in 2001, and after bouncing around only recently found her way to her current job. Along the way, she says her salary has been "stagnant" at around $45,000. Her health care costs have increased, she now has expensive parking costs, and has lost the IRA matching contributions she used to get from her old employer.

"It's paycheck to paycheck," she says. "Seriously, if I had a major car problem or something, it would either be going on credit cards or I'd be pulling money out of savings or something, which is already not very big."

News Headlines
Related Subjects