Economic conditions

Summer Business Sees Mixed Reviews Across the Island

With summer at the halfway point, Island businesses have begun to tally the numbers.

Building Boom Fuels Economic Recovery, But Outlook Mixed

Martha’s Vineyard is showing signs of recovery after the recession, including in construction and real estate. But a seasonal economy and lack of affordable housing continue to pose challenges.

Two-Speed Economy: High End Is Spending, Bottom End Suffering

The good news for the Vineyard economy is that in the first three months of this year banks loaned some $240 million for new mortgages, well above the numbers for the previous two recession years.

Even better, said Chris Wells, president and chief executive officer of the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, most of that was for new purchases rather than refinancing of existing loans, the biggest part of the mortgage business during the downturn.

Foreclosures, Joblessness Up

Despite the claimed end of the recession, the number of foreclosure proceedings on the Vineyard appears to be increasing, along with unemployment.

Analysis of the space taken up by foreclosure-related advertising in the Gazette shows that it took up more than twice the column inches in the December quarter of 2009, compared with the same period in 2008.

And Chris Wells, president of the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, said this week he believed unemployment on the Island could be as high as 50 per cent over the next couple of months.

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Expectations Ebb for Island Economy

Amid mixed reports about whether the recession is easing its grip on the nation, the Vineyard economy remains in decline and has yet to hit bottom, merchants, tradesmen and bankers said this week.

Unemployment on the Island is still high — especially among contractors — while many businesses ended the calendar year with sluggish sales and little hope for a better spring or summer. In Edgartown alone at least 10 retail stores have closed their doors for good this winter, and some observers put the number closer to 20.

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Real Estate Downturn Continues, With Brokers in the Trenches

The real estate market on the Vineyard had already begun to see a sharp downturn this year, and the recent collapse in global financial markets and turmoil on Wall Street certainly has not made things better.

Statistical evidence gathered from Banker and Tradesman online, which compiles real estate figures from sale documents, shows the Dukes County housing market is off sharply from last year, with sales down almost 15 per cent and prices off by more than nine per cent.

Heating Costs Trouble Island

After 30 years of operating the Island's largest oil and gas supplier, Ralph Packer is quite aware that many Islanders feel they pay way too much to heat their homes in the winter.

"I start to hear it every year when it gets cold; people think they're getting ripped off" Mr. Packer said. "They are automatically suspicious when their [oil bills] go up each year"

Economy Stalls as Real Estate Sales Slow, Foreclosures Rise

The real estate market on the Vineyard has swung strongly in favor of buyers, as record stocks of unsold properties force agents and owners to begin to heavily discount prices.

Figures for the first quarter of this year showed the total inventory of residential property up more than 40 per cent over the same period a year ago.

The median sale price also continued a decline which began last year. For the March quarter this year it was $688,750, compared with $705,000 in the same quarter last year and $702,000 at the end of last year.

Business landscape Shifts in Larger Towns

Now is always a good time to market a quality product, say a number of Island entrepreneurs opening new businesses this summer.

"Our idea ... was to kind of seize the moment," said Frank Pellegrino, opening a Mexican restaurant where Lawry's seafood restaurant used to be in Edgartown.

He said that he and partner Denise Page didn't want uncertain economic times to deter them from taking the lease to a valuable piece of property: Not many businesses come with parking lots attached, he said.

Economic Difficulties Leave Uncertain Outlook at Year's End

Start talking to people about the state of the Vineyard economy, and you can detect an edginess, an air of concern that mirrors the condition of a nation in the midst of recession, war and ongoing fear of terrorism.

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