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NOVELL LAYOFFS COULD HELP ECONOMY

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Novell's news of layoffs for 600 local workers may actually stimulate the economy in a backhanded sort of way, according to at least one lender in Utah Valley.

Gary Robison, branch manager for Medallion Mortgage in Provo, said the market has been held back the past few months as WordPerfect and Novell employees waited to hear details about the anticipated cuts."The merger actually left a lot of people hesitant," said Robison. "They were unsure of whether to go ahead or just what."

As a result, even though the growth in Utah County stayed steady, it wasn't the banner summer for home sales many real estate agents expected, he said.

"This will put a few homes on the market, of course, and slow down the appreciation factor somewhat," said Robison, "but there are many who, I believe, will heave a big sigh of relief and feel freer to move ahead with housing plans."

Brad Norton, marketing manager for Universal Campus Credit Union in Orem, said the reaction at the credit union will probably be much the same as it was for the November 1993 layoff.

"We're people helping people," said Norton. "We're going to be saying we understand and how can we help?"

Norton said out-of-work employees will be offered the opportunity to make interest-only payments or one-month extensions, if needed.

Robison said each company - depending on what investment the lenders want to see on individual properties - would probably work out some arrangements that could help through the down times.

Both Robison and Norton said those laid off should promptly notify their lenders.

"Our first inclination," said Norton, "is to reach out and help."

The credit union's members include WordPerfect employees, said Norton.

While the credit union does not retain first mortgages, the institution does hold a high number of home equity loans.

"We look at our loan portfolios and we have a number of different types with home equity our most well-secured," said Norton. "A person's very last resort is to not make the mortgage payment so we're not worried when we hear news like this, but we are empathetic."

Robison said Utah's number of delinquencies and bankruptcies is very, very low compared to the rest of the nation.

He said while there will be "some bumps and bruises" in the next few months, the impact will be relatively softer than it could have been.

"In the '80s it would've really hurt," he said. Today, the job market is strong enough and the growth steady enough that those laid off should find new positions fairly quickly and homes put onto the market will be absorbed without major delays.

"We're still seeing growth, a lot of growth. The latest projections for Utah predict a 4 percent rate compared to an average 1 to 11/2 percent rate in other states. That's enviable.

"And there's every indication that growth will continue," said Robison.