The mood was a bit more up-beat at this year’s Economic Forecast Forum in Research Triangle Park. In recent years, the gatherings have been more about the recession than the recovery. But, yesterday’s annual forecast forum and luncheon brought out a mix of “optimism” and “reality” that seemed easier for state leaders in politics, banking and business to swallow.
Hundreds of people sipped on iced tea and nibbled on carrot cake as the speeches began beginning with Governor Bev Perdue.
Bev Perdue: "This state is the epicenter of growth. No matter what side of the aisle you sit on policy-wise, in North Carolina and America, the economy takes center stage."
Perdue reminded the crowd of the state’s bustling population growth, high ranking business climate and drop in unemployment rate.
Perdue: "I have to tell you, that I’m cautiously optimistic. Really, for the first time since I’ve been governor. I feel hopeful."
Harry Davis: "So the economy is going to get better, I want to be positive about that, as the governor suggested."
Harry Davis is a Professor of Banking at Appalachian State University. He says we should feel some-what hopeful. Davis predicts interest rates will stay low. And he thinks the state and national unemployment rates will continue to fall, but not by much because of all of the jobs being purged from state and local governments. Davis says housing has already hit rock bottom, so it has to get better. But he says it will take a while.
Davis: "The post war baby boomers and the generation, that’s me, and the generation in front of me, we built all the 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 square foot houses in the mountain and at the coast we hate them now. We hate grass, we hate the gutters, we hate leaves. We can’t wait to get out of this elephant, but there’s nobody behind us in the population snake to buy them."
That’s because consumer confidence is low. People don’t have the jobs or money they want. But there is money out there. Bob Ingram is General Partner of Hatteras Venture Partners and former CEO of Glaxo Wellcome.
Bob Ingram: "Every company I serve, and I am on six corporate boards. Every company I serve, without exception, has more cash on their balance sheet than they have ever had in the life history of that company. Yet, every company, as Harry indicated, is being very, very careful about capital investment and adding jobs in the US. And a lot of it has to do with the demagoguery and uncertainty coming from our nation’s leaders."
And that uncertainty may last for much of the year as the election takes center stage.
Donna Goodrich: Thank you to our sponsors and to each of you for being here. And we’ll see you next year on the first business day of 2013.