Business Outlook Panel: 2018 Forecast
The 2018 economic forecast presented by the Business Outlook Panelist’s at Tuesday’s Anderson Rotary Club meeting was balanced with cautious optimism. Meaningful tax reform could be a significant plus, adding perhaps one-half percent to growth starting next year and continuing at least into 2020. However, some would argue, a ninth year of steady recession recovery could suggest we are due for a downturn. According to Bill Witte, Associate Professor Emeritus of Economics at IU, along with our record low unemployment rates still expected to remain at or below 4%, “The story of 2018 is about labor markets…worker shortages and tight conditions.”
The economy, considered on its own, continues to look sound. New economic data have been positive, although somewhat obscured by weather-related distortions.
Control Forecast: Average Annual Percent Change for Selected U.S. Variables
Total Establish. Employment
Ryan Brewer, Associate Professor of Finance, IUPU Columbus, noted that Indiana is “…on an upward trajectory”, citing Eli Lilly, Anthem, and Cummins is experiencing improved market values. Personal income growth and employment growth overall are both expected to lag slightly behind the U.S. quarterly rates for the remainder of the forecast period with manufacturing expected to sustain annual job losses from 2018 to 2020. However, in the next year, 10 out of the 11 industry sectors are expected to have employment growth.
On the local front, Terry Truitt, Dean of Anderson University’s Falls School of Business, spoke of jobs/employment, closing statistical gaps between Madison county and US, and the importance of attaining educational degrees at all levels. According to the data, more than 5,500 jobs have been added to the local economic landscape between 2012-2015, with approximately 1,200 of those just in the last twelve months. With Madison County on par with Indiana’s jobs and employment numbers, the real game changer will be raising the numbers of diplomas (high school and beyond) earned in this community which will, in turn, increase wages.
Member reactions were positive, with opinions and suggestions for responding to the forecast. Marlene Carey, Regional Marketing Officer of St Vincent Northeast Region said, “It’s good to hear the positive outlook on job growth. We, as an organization, look forward to bringing in more individuals to work in this region.” Mrs. Carey did acknowledge there are many unknowns related to potential changes in the Federal health care policy that may affect her industry. However, she is “…confident to be working under Ascension, the largest health care non-profit in the United States, which affords her organization to have a seat at the table.”
Pete Bitar, Interim Madison County Chamber President, asked the panel about the current, and near future, climate for starting a new business or exploring entrepreneurial efforts. Mr. Brewer replied, “It’s certainly a good time for business investment”, while cautioning, “…just keeping in mind the challenge of finding workers.” Mr. Bitar was later asked about his thoughts on the innovative climate of Anderson and Madison County and its ability to create and or attract sustainable jobs to the area? “I think we’ve made great strides with some projects and ideas we’ve started”, citing The Flagship Center as an example. “However, sometimes stepping out with new ideas in this community can be challenging, even discouraged by some at times.” He went on to say that having true “intention” behind our entrepreneurial efforts is an important driver for innovation.