Transportation bellwethers point up

CBJ Editorial

The transportation industry is a leading economic bellwether because it shows the exchange of goods and people. When it does well, it typically means the economy is going well and will continue to expand.

Two of the Corridor’s key transportation entities continue to show solid growth.

The Eastern Iowa Airport (CID) showed strength as it broke another passenger record last month.

The total number of passengers who flew through CID in June was the highest number of passengers to use the facility in a single month, according to the airport.

June’s passenger mark of 127,333 was 19.5 percent higher than June 2018. It’s also 4.6 percent higher than the number of people who used CID in March, when the airport set its previous monthly record.

Year over year, the passengers emplaned — those who board a flight at CID — is up almost 9 percent.

Airport Director Marty Lenss said the additional traffic is due to larger aircraft, additional flights on existing routes and the addition of Nashville service on Allegiant. June also marked the start of seasonal nonstop service to Los Angeles on Allegiant.

Also, Heartland Express, one of the region’s premier trucking firms, exhibited strong growth over the quarter and for the first half of the year compared to 2018.

Operating income for the second quarter was up 31.1 percent from same quarter of 2018, while operating income for the first six months of the year was up 42.1 percent from the 2018 period.

Let’s hope this portends more growth to come.

Rural growth hurting

The one economic indicator that continues to show sluggishness is agriculture, even though the overall Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) for July rose above growth neutral for the month.

According to the monthly survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of a 10-state region the RMI for July indicated positive growth for the region.

The overall index fell to 50.2 from 53.2 in June. This is the seventh time in the past eight months that the index has remained above growth neutral. Any reading below 50, indicates negative growth for the month.

“Higher agriculture commodity prices and rebuilding from recent floods supported the Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) for the month. Furthermore, almost nine of 10 bankers reported tariffs and trade skirmishes have had, or will have, a negative impact on their local economy,” said Ernie Goss, Creighton’s Jack A. MacAllister Chair in Regional Economics, in announcing the results. “This is up from eight of 10 recorded last September.”

Interestingly, bankers reported that approximately one in 10 farm operating loans from 2018 were not repaid and were rolled into 2019 loans.

The July RMI for Iowa sank to a neutral 49.9 from June’s growth-positive reading of 51.1.

We’re hopeful that the trade war with China will get resolved so the agriculture economy doesn’t get any worse.  •