Some midstate businesses helped by recent rains, others hurt

Telegraph staffJuly 15, 2013 

This year’s record rainfall is not only affecting summer plans, but it’s also affecting midstate businesses.

So far this year, Macon’s rainfall has topped 46 inches, according to the National Weather Service. In comparison, last year it rained just 19.4 inches through July. Macon’s rainfall in June alone stood at 12.25 inches this year, compared to about 3 inches in June 2012.

Negative effects of too much water reach across industries, from construction to recreation, while just a few businesses say they haven’t been affected by the weather much at all. Several said there are pros and cons to Middle Georgia’s wet year.

Home maintenance and construction

Randy Ferguson, project manager at C.J. Price Construction Co. in Macon, said the waterlogged spring and summer have “slowed down our work tremendously.”

“We are at the mercy of the rain,” he said.

The rain is a “double-edged sword” for Bates Roofing in Macon, its manager Clay Hargraves said. The company receives lots of calls about leaky roofs, but no matter how much work comes it way, the bottom line suffers since the roofs can’t be fixed until the rain stops, Hargraves said.

Air conditioners also can’t be installed in the rain.

Mike Wall, with Wilson Bryant Air Conditioning, said the rain has slowed down productivity this year. Adding to the industry’s troubles is a dropping number of repair jobs -- in part because of the cooler temperatures the rain brings.

Garry Rogers, a painting contractor for 32 years, said this year’s weather has kept his work schedule topsy-turvy.

“This has been the most difficult year to schedule things,” he said. “Appointments and schedules we made, we’ve had to call and reschedule. It’s affected all the painters. It’s really affected anybody in construction.”

And it’s not just his outside work that’s been hampered. There’s often a domino effect on work sites. For example, Rogers is waiting to begin work on a remodeling job until a cabinet maker can spray on a finishing coat of lacquer and install the cabinets. A carpenter also is waiting to put in crown molding, while other workers are waiting on Rogers and his crew to finish painting before they can start laying carpet.

“One trade is delayed, and it delays others,” he said.

Employees of two landscape companies expressed contrasting opinions about the rainfall.

Scott Downey, owner of Fertile Ground Landscapes in Macon, said although the wet weather has caused grass to grow at a fast pace, mowing it is twice as hard when the ground is wet. Downey said soggy ground makes for slower work and smaller mowers, ultimately costing him time and money.

Sometimes, work gets put on hold due to a rain forecast that doesn’t materialize.

“It upsets customers that jobs aren’t getting done quickly,” Downey said.

Justyne Whitfield, of A&A Contractors of Perry, said the rain has been good for the landscaping business.

“People are cutting their grass twice a week,” Whitfield said. “We’re not gonna complain, because last year was a disaster” because of the drought.

Utilities

The Macon Water Authority hasn’t seen the increase in water use that usually comes with the hotter months, said Kirk Nylund, director of customer service.

“Revenues are lagging behind a bit,” he said.

Although the rain and cooler weather doesn’t affect Flint Energies financially because it is a not-for-profit cooperative, it has had a negative effect on workers and customers, Senior Vice President Jimmy Autry said.

“We’re seeing above-average outage time for our customers, and we don’t like that because we want power to be on at all times,” he said. Numerous thunderstorms and the rain-soaked ground have led to an unusually high number of fallen trees and outages, which in addition to affecting customers have put a strain on workers trying to restore power.

Recreation

Bill Goggin, general manager at Landings Golf Club in Warner Robins, said business is down a bit for the month, and he estimates there has been a decrease of about 10 to 15 percent in the number of golf rounds played in July.

The course draws the majority of business on weekends and holidays, but this year’s rainy Fourth of July was a loss.

“In the golf business it comes with the territory,” he said of the rain. “I think it’s improved course conditions and dropped playing. But it’s nothing we can’t pick back up.”

The Lake Tobesofkee Recreation Area also has seen revenues decline because of the inclement weather, Director Doug Furney said.

Attendance at the parks has been down significantly all spring and summer, their prime seasons. Even though fireworks lit up the Fourth of July sky as planned, the rain cut the parks’ usual revenue by about two-thirds. Furney estimated the recreation area’s revenue was down about $12,000 that day alone.

“It doesn’t even have to rain,” he said. “People don’t want to come out and take the chance of getting soaked.”

Despite the hard times at the lake recreation area, Tim Pancake, general manager of Central Georgia Marina, said business has been normal for the most part.

“It hasn’t affected us at all,” he said.

Agriculture

Due to a wet spring some midstate farmers planted crops later than usual. As the rains continued, they have been unable to get into the fields to treat their crops for weeds or disease.

“I don’t think I’ve ever said we’ve had too much rain in July before,” said Dooly County’s Chuck Coley, who farms about 1,500 acres of cotton and 200 acres of peanuts with his son. “When you grow cotton and peanuts, you usually can’t get enough rain in July.”

Recently Cole has had trouble getting herbicides out to kill weeds.

“The rain has caused some erosion in the fields, too,” he said.

Macon County Extension Agent Jeremy Kichler said the rains have “been both a blessing and hindrance.”

Even though corn farmers haven’t had to irrigate, they now need to cut the silage corn, but the ground is saturated, he said.

“If you can’t get in the fields, you can’t do the proper management,” Kichler said.

Shopping centers

When The Shoppes at River Crossing opened in north Bibb County five years ago, some people said the center wouldn’t do well when it was hot, cold or rainy, Senior General Manager Bill Baker said. River Crossing is an open-air shopping center.

“The only time we really see a downturn in business is when there’s an absolute, absolute downpour,” Baker said. “If it’s an intermittent rain, people are out here with their umbrellas or walking underneath the awnings.”

Sales are slightly up so far this year compared to last year, he said.

“(The rain) hasn’t affected our sales any more than weather has affected sales in the previous years,” he said.

It never rains in Macon Mall, said Coles Hull, marketing analyst for mall owner Hull Storey Gibson Cos.

“Back when we purchased the mall, we did a weather study and found that 129 days out of the year it is above 90 degrees in Macon, 89 days out of the year it is above 94 degrees, and there are about 80 days of precipitation,” Hull said in an email. “Shoppers favor an enclosed shopping venue during periods of heat, cold or rain where they can walk from store to store indoors protected from the elements.”

Generally, sales are improving at the mall compared to last year, but Hull said that may be due to improvements made during the past year.

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