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An unseasonable surprise at pump
Business owners welcome lower gas prices
Gas WEB 1
Hiro Kimoto, owner of Handy Hero, fills up his truck before heading to an appointment. Business owners are relieved to see lower gas prices this season. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Hiro and Shannon Kimoto spent more than $600 on gasoline for their business in May.

The married owners of Handy Hero, a handyman and home improvement business in Cumming, said they’re glad to see gas prices coming down a bit, particularly at a time of year when they normally rise.

“When it goes down, it definitely helps,” Hiro Kimoto said. “When it’s 50 cents less, then I can do a lot more mileage with that, so that helps.”

For Justin Fulkerson, manager of B.L. Mullinax Landscaping & Shrubbery in south Forsyth, lower gas prices can equate to reduced expenses and more business.

“The main thing with us is sending out deliveries,” he said. “You know, if fuel goes up a dollar, that costs you.

“And then from a homeowners’ prospective as well, [when gas goes up] from $3 to almost $4 and that’s a 25 percent increase in getting to and from work. That sometimes puts flowers and shrubbery to the back of everybody’s mind.”

Regular unleaded gasoline in Forsyth County was at $3.23 per gallon earlier this week, slightly less than the state average of $3.36.

At this time last year, Georgia’s average price was nearly $3.65 a gallon, according to reports from AAA.

Crude oil prices recently tumbled to their lowest since October, settling near $83 a barrel this week, driving down gasoline costs.

The timing of the lower prices may seem strange to many since typically summer blends lead to higher gas costs at this time of year.

John Scott, a professor of economics at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, said several factors likely are playing into the lower costs.

“First of all, our economy is kind of sluggish, not growing very well,” he said. “Second of all, there has been less tension in the Middle East of late … third is the European [financial] crisis. Things are slowing down in Europe, so less gas is being used there.

“India is also having some problems, so I would point to things like that — the demand side here, the demand in Europe and in India, and maybe a little of the supply in terms of the Middle East.”

Whatever the factors, lower gas prices work out well for Kimoto, who said he often drives as much as 100 miles a day, and his 10 technicians. They go to homes for various improvement and remodeling jobs around Forsyth and surrounding counties.

Kimoto said he doesn’t reimburse employees for mileage costs, but does figure gas costs into their salaries.

“But if a job is farther than the usual local areas, then the company helps out and sometimes pays for it or half of it,” he said.

As far as the outlook of gas prices for the rest of the summer, Scott said that was something he couldn’t accurately predict, but guessed that the lower costs may linger for a while.

“I really can’t tell and I certainly can’t predict what will happen in the Middle East,” he said. “But I would think Europe will only get worse. And as things get worse, there would be less and less economic activity, less and less use of gasoline and oil.

“For that, if anything because Europe is deteriorating and will continue to deteriorate, I think there might be less pressure on gas prices.”

Scott predicted that consumers would eventually see “a big inflation in all prices” including crude and gasoline.

“That will depend on when we get into a strong [economic] recovery … I don’t see that on the horizon,” he said.

Until then, Fulkerson will continue to enjoy the lower gas prices.

“So far, so good,” he said. “I mean, everybody’s happy to see it go down.”