An August survey of business supply managers suggested slow or no economic growth over the next several months in nine Midwest and Plains states, in part because of trade skirmishes, a report said Tuesday.
The Mid-America Business Conditions index dropped below growth-neutral in August to hit 49.3, compared with 52.0 in July. The index had remained above growth neutral for 32 straight months, the report said.
“Weakness in the region’s farm and manufacturing sectors produced by tariffs and a global economic slowdown pulled regional growth below that of the nation,” said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey. “Based on our manufacturing survey over the past several months, I expect overall growth to slow and potentially move into negative territory in the months ahead.”
The survey results are compiled into indexes ranging from zero to 100. Any score above 50 suggests growth. A score below that suggests decline.
The survey covers Nebraska, Iowa, Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
The August employment index for the Midwest and Plains plummeted to 45.1, its lowest level in 34 months, from 56.3 in July.
“For the last 12 months, Mid-America employment growth has been 0.7%, compared to a much higher 1.5% for the U.S.,” Goss said. “This month, as in July, approximately 40% of supply managers (who responded) reported that the shortage of qualified workers was the greatest economic challenge for their company for the next 12 months.”
The regional trade numbers were down again with both export orders and imports falling in the August survey. The index for new export orders sank to 39.6 from July’s 44.7, and the import index dropped to 42.3 from 43.8 in July.
Two-thirds of the supply managers who responded in August indicated that the trade war and tariffs were harming their companies.
The business confidence index plunged to 45.0 last month from 51.4 in July — a 35-month low.
“I expect business confidence to depend heavily on trade talks with China, the Federal Reserve’s interest rate actions in the weeks and months ahead, and recession signals from the nation’s financial markets,” Goss said.
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Nebraska’s overall index fell into negative territory after two straight months with readings above growth-neutral. The index tumbled to 49.3 last month from July’s 52.9. Index components: new orders at 49.6, production or sales at 51.6, delivery lead time at 59.7, inventories at 42.3 and employment at 43.4.
Nebraska job growth over the past 12 months was flat for durable-goods producers, Goss said, while nondurable-goods manufacturers experienced solid growth. However, the survey showed the state’s manufacturing sector lost jobs in August, he said.
Iowa’s overall index sank below the 50.0 threshold to hit 49.7 last month, compared with 52.6 in July. Index components were new orders at 51.8, production or sales at 49.4, delivery lead time at 59.4, employment at 45.7 and inventories at 42.1. Manufacturers experienced slightly positive growth over the past 12 months.
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The car rental business
Appropriately located in a former horse stable, the Ford Livery Company at 1314 Howard Street was America's first car rental company, dreamed up in 1916 by Joe Saunders. He and his brothers expanded their company, later renamed Saunders Drive It Yourself System, to 56 cities by 1926. They sold to Avis in 1955. Read more
These chocolates, a Nebraska staple, are sold throughout the world. They’ve been produced in Greenwood for three generations.
In St. Paul, Nebraska, during the late 1940s, a woman named Dorothy Lynch developed a sweet and tangy dressing. Community members loved it so much that they brought their own bottles and jugs to have them filled with the popular concoction. In 1964, Lynch sold the recipe to Tasty-Toppings so it could be widely manufactured. Every bottle of Dorothy Lynch now comes from a production facility in Duncan.
Vise-Grip locking pliers
These days, the pliers are made in China, but the handy tool was made at a plant in Dewitt, Nebraska, until 2008. William Petersen, a blacksmith in DeWitt, came up with the idea for locking pliers in the early 1920s. He patented his first wrench in 1921, but the first Vise-Grip wrench with a locking handle was not patented until 1924. Petersen originally sold the pliers from the trunk of his car, but later formed a company and began manufacturing Vise-Grips in DeWitt in 1938. The company was acquired by Irwin Tools in 1993.
The chair lift
Union Pacific engineer (not the train kind) James Curran came up with the design for the ski chairlift in 1936. He was inspired by hook-equipped banana conveyor systems that loaded cargo ships in the tropics. The first chairlifts were installed at a ski resort in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 1936 and 1937.
In 1958, Cliff Hillegass was working at Nebraska Book Co. when he met a Canadian man who published study guides. Hillegass acquired the American rights to the product and produced them under the name CliffsNotes. He continued to develop more, working from Lincoln. The company would go on to produce reference guides for subjects other than literature, saving the academic lives of millions of students time and again.
When blacksmith-turned-knifemaker Frank J. Richtig made a name for himself among knife enthusiasts by dramatically demonstrating his knives. Using a hammer, he would pound the blade completely through a ¾-inch-thick steel strap. Then he would slice a piece of paper with the knife that had cut through steel. Richtig’s feat was possible because the steel had been hardened through a process he both discovered and took to his grave in 1977. Richtig’s knives — many of which are in private collections — have been valued at more than $4,000 each.
Inspiration for the chocolate-coated ice cream bar came from a candy store in Onawa, Iowa, in 1920. But it wasn’t until owner and creator Christian Kent Nelson took his invention to a Nebraska chocolatier named Russell Stover that the Eskimo Pie went into mass production. Many variations of the delicious treat are available in grocery and convenience stores worldwide.
The Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) Barrier was developed at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln between 1998 and 2002. Dean Sicking led a team of engineers to create the special safety wall for racetracks, which reduces the danger to drivers in a crash. The system was installed on many IndyCar and NASCAR circuit tracks.
Frozen TV dinners
In the 1950s, Swanson met the needs of busy American families with the creation of a meal that was easy and fast to prepare in single portions. Several other frozen dinners had been developed by other companies, but Omaha-based Swanson developed the idea on a nationwide scale. Though it’s widely assumed that the term “TV dinner” came from families eating the frozen meals in front of the television at dinner time, food historians say the name came from the tray’s original shape, which resembled a 1950s TV.