Oklahoma on Ice — The Aftermath

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Things are looking up in frozen Oklahoma — if you’re in the tree removal and replacement business, according to Kirby Lee Davis in The Journal Record.

“If you’re in the tree removal business you’re going to have a bonanza,” added Gary Trennepohl, a professor of finance and the president of Oklahoma State University’s Tulsa campus. “In our campus I bet we’re going to lose 90 percent of our trees. To me that’s the most devastating financial impact.”

Those comments reflect the aesthetics of the storm, the most visible area of damage. And it points to a huge, often overlooked sector.

Trennepohl estimated just replacing the trees at the OSU-Tulsa campus will cost hundreds and thousands of dollars. Multiply that by the thousands of square miles seeing similar wreckage, from Yukon and Norman to Grove and Claremore, and economists might start shaking their heads at the enormity of the issue.

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Those businesses, however, might be affected by a labor shortage brought about by the state and federal crackdown on illegal immigrant labor.

Lee interviews University of Oklahoma economist Robert Dauffenbach and OSU-Tulsa’s President Gary Trennepohl (also a professor of business) on the broader economic effects of the still-ongoing blackout affecting hundreds of thousands of the state’s homes and businesses.

“It’s going to be especially hard on the small businesses,” said Trennepohl. “If this goes on probably for more than a week or 10 days, it’s going to start pinching people. If it (electrical service) comes back up tomorrow, we’re not going to notice much. But if it goes to a week or 10 days, you’re going to get into payroll and cash flow problems on many levels. It’s just impossible to put a dollar figure on that.”

Falling during the key Christmas sales season escalates the risk for retailers (and sales tax-driven governments) that can count on these sales for 25 percent or more of their annual revenue. Dauffenbach said this could create pent-up demand consumers will fulfill once normalcy returns, but Trennepohl had his doubts.

“Typically in my experiences you don’t really make it up,” he said. “You don’t just shift all of those sales. It doesn’t work like that.”

Such concerns could be reflected in recovery efforts, said Dauffenbach.

“I don’t know that this is the right social way to approach things but they seem to be very much in a hurry to get retail establishments back up and happening,” he said.

There’s a lot more. Read the whole thing. Also, check out this story about the likely impact on utility bills.

Ice storms are Mother Nature’s femme fatales. Beautiful to look at, dangerous to know.

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