The economic horizon was rosy in 2007. Wall Street was riding high, and investors were bullish on the future of the economy.
In this environment, many businesses, schools, nonprofits and other entities took on debt for new facilities and other projects to expand their reach and capitalize on growing public demand for goods and services.
Then, in December, the recession hit. And hit hard.
As unemployment rose, the stock market contracted, putting the squeeze on investors. Suddenly, some of the investments that seemed like well-calculated risks earlier in 2007 became problematic. Companies defaulted on loans and declared bankruptcy, and many of the projects they had planned stalled or were left to dry up as the economic tides receded.
Here in Madison County, we felt the pressure of the recession acutely. Unemployment rose above 12 percent, and many who could find work had to settle for jobs that paid a fraction of their former wages. Businesses and the real estate market suffered.
The recession officially ended in June 2009, but its repercussions continue to echo in Madison County, which was already reeling from the failure of the American auto industry.
Before the recession hit, Madison Park Church of God took the bold step of building a new mega-church on the outskirts of Anderson, with visibility from Interstate 69. The church had outgrown its previous location along Scatterfield Road and was looking to spread its wings. To purchase 200 acres near the interstate and build the beautiful facility, the church took out a $17.5 million loan, backed by the sale of bonds.
The new church facility, with its gorgeous lobby and splendid auditorium, as well as other amenities, was instantly a jewel of the community. But it was costly, and when the economic roof collapsed during the recession, church leaders could see difficult times ahead. A $5.8 million balloon payment on the loan loomed in July 2012, and suddenly there was no market for the properties that Madison Park had planned to sell to finance the lump-sum payment.