Creighton University economist Ernie Goss sees the new year starting out right for the nine-state mid-America region where he surveys purchasing managers. This month’s report includes several improving factors. His index predicts above normal growth, neutral for the third straight month and looking good for the first part of 2003. Goss says one of the bright spots was an increase in orders for goods. Those new export orders, he explains, come from a decline in the dollar’s value which makes our goods cheaper abroad. He’s seeing the biggest jump since 1994 in new export orders. In previous months there have been a lot of layoffs, but that “bleeding,” says Goss, has ended and managers say they plan to begin hiring in the first quarter of this year. While Iowa hasn’t been growing as fast as many would like, it hasn’t undergone the problems many states have had according to Goss. He expects the state to gain jobs in the first part of 2003 based on companies that say they’re willing to hire.