The Economy Today: Tough Times for Inventors

Economic news from Oregon, North Dakota, Kansas, and elsewhere

National headlines focused on Obama’s new international tax overhaul, which would raise $210 billion over the next decade by cracking down on wealthy individuals and corporations that avoid U.S. taxes by keeping money abroad. The New York Times also reports that in areas like Sacramento, Las Vegas, parts of Florida, and California’s Inland Empire, where home prices cratered early, there are early signs of recovery, with house sales up and prices stabilizing.

Tight credit is harsh on everyone, particularly for basement inventors. The Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon, runs an AP story about how problems obtaining credit are making it difficult for independent inventors to work. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reports that patent applications are down. Meanwhile, Portland will use its federal stimulus money to roll out its new Clean Energy Fund in mid- to late May, reports the Portland Tribune. The mayor said of the fund, which will provide energy-saving home repairs to 500 homeowners, “We’re trying to take this one-time money and turn it into an ongoing industry.”

In North Dakota, state lawmakers have decided to spend $15 million on a new grandstand for the state fairgrounds in Minot, according to the Bismark Tribune. Critics of the allotment say it’s far too extravagant a taxpayer cost for a facility used approximately thorty days a year. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Grand Forks Herald reports that the only grocery store in Finley, which leaks heavily when it rains, will get a new building due to community fundraising efforts.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports on a proposed plan that would more than double the salaries of part-time lawmakers in Salt Lake County by allowing them to work more hours and trim their aides’ pay. The Tribune also reports that the Utah Jazz is expected to undergo a roster shakeup due to economic hard times.

Mini-grants from an educational non-profit are helping Tucson-area schools keep popular programs from falling victim to budget cuts, according to the Arizona Daily Star. The programs range from teaching math over the Internet to third-graders in London (for high schoolers) to playing world instruments (for elementary schoolers).

Meanwhile, an AP story in the Arizona Republic looks at how summer resorts are getting swamped with applications from out-of-work professionals. The Lansing Current likewise reports that the Schlitterbahn Vacation Village, a new waterpark in Kansas City, is looking to hire more than 300 seasonal employees.

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Jane Kim is a writer in New York.