Thomley opened the hardware store five years ago and runs it with his wife, Judi.
Were he to do it over again, Thomley said he would not have opened the business.
“Who would have known that the economy was going to go totally upside down and be so unfriendly to small business for so long?” he said.
With three full-time employees and three to five part-timers, he said only “hope, desperation and prayer” keep him going during his 80-hour work weeks.
And the customers he speaks with are in about the same shape, “especially because a lot of my customers own businesses,” Thomley said. “The majority are in a precarious situation right now.”
Whether President Obama is re-elected will have a major impact on the economy, he said.
“If Obama is re-elected, I think a lot of people are going to choose to get out,” Thomley said. “The pain has to cease. We have to have hope, and if we don’t have hope that the purse strings at the corporate level are going to be let loose a little bit because there is some confidence in Washington … I don’t think many of us want to keep putting up with this.”
Commercial real estate broker Ed Hammock of Marietta, who has been in the business for 41 years, shares a similar view.
Hammock, who chairs the Marietta Development Authority, said Mitt Romney would be an improvement.
“If there’s a change in leadership — which we need drastically, in my opinion — then we’ll see some things done that will encourage economic growth,” Hammock said. “Until that time, people are very reluctant to spend any money.”
Hammock said working by himself has allowed him to withstand the economic stagnation better than someone with an office of 40 agents to support. But even so, there’s been little revenue coming in.
“There’s not much new retail development,” Hammock said. “One of the worst hit is industrial. There’s some real deals in the industrial market and office warehouse buildings. The market as far as value goes has probably dropped 50 percent in some areas.”
Marietta homebuilder Chris Poston, senior vice president with Traton Homes, is more optimistic, saying sales have been better the first half of 2012 compared to last year.
“Sales are definitely looking up,” Poston said. “I’m not sure whether that means we have better-located subdivisions this first half of the year than we had last year. But I would say the general feeling of all of the builders that I know is that there is a positive turn. I’m not going to say everybody’s saying, ‘hip, hip hurray it’s over,’ but at least there’s been a positive turn.”
The number of housing permits issued across Cobb County in the first half of 2012 shows a rebound from previous years. From January through June 2012, unincorporated Cobb and its six cities issued 565 permits for construction of new single-family homes. In the first half of 2011, 475 such permits were issued.
So far this year, 7,094 homes in Cobb have been published for foreclosure. That marks a 24.8 percent decrease from last year’s 9,437 homes listed for foreclosure from February to August 2011, a sign of improvement.
A total of 14,583 notices were submitted to the Journal in 2011.
According to RealtyTrac, which records foreclosure data across the nation, foreclosures are down 11 percent in the first half of this year.
There were 1,045,801 properties in the country with default notices, auction sale notices or bank repossessions in the first six months of the year, RealtyTrac reported. One in 126 homes, or 0.8 percent, had at least one foreclosure filing in the first half of 2012.
Georgia posted the nation’s third highest foreclosure rate in the first half of the year, with one in 63 homes having a foreclosure filing. Nevada topped the list, followed by Arizona.
Mercer University economics professor Dr. Roger Tutterow said leading indicators remain consistent with continued economic growth rather than a pending recession.
“Unfortunately, the rate of growth will remain weak,” Tutterow said. “That weak pace of this expansion is why, three years into this recovery, there are still many households and businesses that remain unconvinced that the recession ever actually ended.”
The economy’s weakness also renders it more vulnerable to external shocks in the coming months, he said.
Tutterow said for this election, control of the White House and Senate will take on even greater importance because it is unlikely that the pending fiscal cliff will be addressed until after the election.
“The two major parties will likely offer very different approaches to this issue,” he said. “As such, I sense that the economic stakes are higher than in any presidential election since 1980.”
Tutterow said it’s tough to make the case for growth accelerating in the next few months.
“Much business will wait until after the national election to make any significant expansion decisions,” he said. “Even then, we will likely not have clarity with regard to European debt crisis and our own pending fiscal challenges. At this point, the most likely outcome is continued growth for the balance of the year, but at a pace below that which we enjoyed during the last several expansions. As always, there is the risk of unanticipated external shocks, including those that are geopolitical in nature, that can displace that outlook.”
Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairman Tony Britton, senior vice president of Cumberland-based Community and Southern Bank, said he is cautiously optimistic about the economy.
“If I truly — and I’m speaking from the heart here — if I listen to the members of the Chamber, if I listen to the members of the various business associations — last night we had a huge, huge jam over at the Civic Center with a joint association meeting, and it was phenomenal,” Britton said. “Folks are upbeat, and as they’re together you can just see it, but I still think people are just waiting to see what’s going to happen. There’s so many unknowns.”
Thomley, Hammock and Poston said they didn’t think the race for chairman of the Cobb Board of Commissioners would have much of an impact on the local economy, although Britton takes a different view.
“In some ways it certainly does,” Britton said. “It’s not the campaign itself, but when I look to see what Cobb County is doing, we’ve seen some good things. Just like yesterday we had the ribbon-cutting on the Big Shanty Road. I think that can’t help but stimulate some activity for us. Cobb County, if there’s a place to be in a tough economy, I think Cobb County is the place to be. Even in difficult times we have our challenges, but it’s still a shining star, so I think for the businesses that are here, while challenged, there’s a silver lining in this area.”