Experts Say American Manufacturing Is Key To Economic Recovery I - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Experts Say American Manufacturing Is Key To Economic Recovery In 2014

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WMDT 47 News - As President Obama prepares for his upcoming, economy-focused State of the Union address, financial experts, politicians and business owners on the Eastern Shore are doing some planning of their own.

"I've been here for 43 years and I just can't believe we haven't done more," a long-time Salisbury resident said.

While some remain pessimistic about economic recovery on Delmarva, local leaders at the 2014 Economic Forecast Conference say the worst is behind us.

"Wicomico County has three bond ratings every time it sells debt. We went to New York in October for the most recent bond sale and the county was upgraded twice which is almost unheard of," Senior VP at Davenport & Co. Sam Ketterman said.

"I don't think anybody can claim that we have recovered, but I think we're on track to one," Wicomico County Council President Matt Holloway said.

Experts say getting back on track begins with American manufacturing.

"The manufacturing renaissance is really kind of the key part of our capital market forecast. Cost competitiveness from an energy standpoint, makes the U.S. attractive –globally competitive, to be able to increase output here. The downside of our forecast is that we don't really see that benefiting labor very much, as so much of the manufacturing that's going on now, is really automated," economist and Senior Managing Director of Wilmington Trust Chris Kreicker said.

Other big drivers for the Eastern Shore continue to be real estate, tourism, development, and agriculture.

"The good news is we have pretty low interest rates. Even though we expect them to increase over the next couple of years, it's still relatively attractive from an interest rate standpoint. Also this area continues to have a pretty attractive profile – the retiree leaving Connecticut or New Jersey and immigrating to the Delmarva Peninsula. Agriculture continues to be strong – maybe not quite as strong as it had been as prices have softened up a bit, but that's a nice base part of the economy here. And Tourism continues to be an attractive destination – you can't move the ocean," Kreicker said.

He says we need to focus on creating a business-friendly environment.

"Making sure that the tax environment is reasonable and the work force is educated. Trying to create an environment where people want to settle is pretty important."

For local business owner David Wharton, 2013 was a good year, but not as good as he wanted it to be. But he says 2014 is already off to a great start.

"We've already done a wedding show the first part of January, and we had better attendance there. And we're seeing a lot better response."

It's a positive step towards recovery, but experts warn it's going to be a slow and steady process.

"We came out of the crisis kind of crawling, maybe we get up to walking, but we're not quite ready for a sprint just yet," Kreicker said.

He goes on to say that having access to inexpensive natural gas and energy are also going to be important in bringing business to our area.

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