Local & State Experts Give Expectations for 2013’s Economy

Staff Report From Valdosta CEO

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Over 140 Chamber members met Tuesday morning over a hot breakfast to hear from three of the area’s top economic specialists on their predicted outlooks for our economy at a local, state and national level. While the speakers seemed hopeful and showed the progress made in the last year, our economy is still working toward recovering from the 2008 recession and has obstacles to watch out for.

This year’s Business Outlook breakfast was once again presented by Wiregrass Georgia Technical College. Dr. Ray Perren, President of WGTC, opened the meeting with a heart-felt prayer and introduced returning speakers. Presenters included Dr. Cynthia Tori, Professor of Economics at VSU; Dr. Jeffery M. Humphreys, Director of the Selig Center at University of Georgia; and Dr. Thomas Cunningham, Vice President, Senior Economist and Regional Executive Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. 

Dr. Tori began the presentations with a look at Valdosta and Lowndes County’s local economy. Tori went over the area’s strengths, weaknesses and how our community has grown in the last year. Some of the upcoming year’s positive economic contributors include agriculture, the expansion of our exports and Moody Air Force Base.

While Moody currently is making a tremendous impact on our community, Tori also pointed out that it is something we need to take special care of. According to Tori, the secretary of defense says the country should expect more base closures in the coming years, and we in Valdosta need to do what we can to make sure Moody is not one of those bases.

One of the significant weaknesses discussed by Tori concerned last year’s unemployment rates. While jobs are being created, unfortunately, job creation is keeping pace with population increase. Other potential threats include stagnant wages, energy prices and higher taxes.

“People are trying to figure out how to readjust their budget with the new, higher taxes,” Tori said.

However, overall Tori’s outlook was positive. Her presentation ended with a positive emphasis on the recovery the area has sustained since 2008.

Dr. Humphreys followed, beginning his presentation on a positive note. Humphreys covered the state’s economy, and pointed out that Georgia’s economy grew slightly faster than the national economy this past year. In addition, Humphrey’s looked at some of the specifics of what’s going on in Georgia now, and what it means for our state. He believes things such as oil and big projects are not a problem at the moment.  According to Humphreys, the state will be fine as long as gas does not go over $140 a barrel, and even though the state has entered into some major projects recently, they have created thousands of jobs.

Overall, Humphreys seemed to believe Georgia to be stable, even if everything is not fully recovered from the recession just yet. One of the biggest issues we need to look out for though is the debt ceiling.  According to Humphreys, if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, we will have a bigger problem than the fiscal cliff.

To wrap the meeting up, Dr. Cunningham addressed the national economy, and seemed fairly optimistic in his outlook for the coming year. While some bad things have happened from a fiscal standpoint, he seemed confident that the worst was behind us.

Cunningham touched on personal spending, investing and housing. One of his biggest concerns seemed to be with inflation and the possibility of what happened in the 1970’s happening again today. However, Cunningham emphasized that it is hard to just give a basic statistic, including all the facts, but we are moving forward for the better with things such as the level of debt or the reductions in government employment. 

For more information on the Chamber’s Business Outlook breakfast, visit ValdostaChamber.com.