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Henry Walker, CEO Farmers & Merchants Bank  

Click Here for Henry Walker's Bio

The harsh reality: we're in a recession
The Walker family has been in the Southern California banking business for over 100 years.  We have weathered the financial storms of the great depression and experienced the prosperous seasons during economic peaks. Through it all, we have persevered without allowing the economic climate of the time to dictate how we responded to our customers and clients.  Our philosophy has always been customer centric focused on the relationship, which is why I am personally thrilled to reach out to and connect with the Orange County business community through this new, interactive, social medium.  Although today’s banking and finance may appear to be a very sobering topic, it significantly impacts our lives on a daily basis.  I look forward to developing a dialogue that opens the lines of communication to express our opinions on topics that may be new territory for some, and yet a frequent journey for others.  I will be honest, straightforward and realistic about our discussions as many others, I believe, would tread lightly.  

Let me start by expressing my underlying observation on our current, yet shaky, financial climate.  To be candid, I think it’s time for us to realize that we are not facing an “economic downturn,” but the harsh reality that we are in the midst of a recession.  Many of us have been here before, and we know the future promises a more robust economy for California.  However, as I look around at everyday life today, I see indicators pointing out this recession reality.  Every time I take my family out for dinner, I note the empty tables and few people waiting for seating –a true indicator of a sharp decline in consumers dining out.  This ripple effect resulting from our economy is moving down to impact how many times we eat out, confirming the lack of consumer confidence and willingness to spend in the local marketplace.  Another indicator to me is to look at how our commercial lease rates rank in comparison to the rest of the country.  In Orange County, commercial lease rates appear to be abnormally high.  Yet the bubble has burst and now it’s time for us to re-evaluate, re-assess, and recognize the slump we are parked in.  It’s time to make those wise and creative adjustments to respond to a recession that is now in progress.  

My desire is that this blog will initiate a multi-tiered conversation, allowing me to offer insight, thoughts, and a voice to gain perceptions from each of you on how to deal with the reality of our current economic condition.

Seed Posting: Washington Post Columnist Steven Pearlstein said rising energy, food, and air-travel prices, the collapse of the mortgage market, reduced production at auto companies, and job losses in the financial industry all are the effects of an economy purging itself of large and unsustainable imbalances. He writes that this is a natural result for a country that has gone from being the world's largest creditor to its largest debtor, and that its citizens are going to have to get used to a "new equilibrium."