Speakers Present Upbeat Projections at Cardinal Bank/Mason Economic Conference
Posted: January 21, 2014 at 5:03 am, Last Updated: January 23, 2014 at 7:07 am
By Buzz McClain
Some 600 regional business leaders heard mostly good news about the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region’s economy during the 22nd Cardinal Bank and George Mason University Greater Washington Economic Conference at the McLean Hilton Hotel on Jan. 16.
The theme — “Up, Down or Sideways: Where Is the Economy Heading in 2014?” — clearly could have gone in any direction, but the event speakers presented upbeat facts and figures despite living in the shadow of a national recession, federal budget cuts, government shutdowns and federally mandated sequester reductions.
After an introduction by Cardinal Bank president Kevin Reynolds, George Mason Rector C. Daniel Clemente pointed out that the university was founded 40 years ago “to attract businesses to the area.” He added that it’s thought the region’s two most important economic developments in modern history were “the building of Dulles International Airport and George Mason University.”
As evidence, he pointed out that last year, according to figures from Mason’s Center for Regional Analysis (CRA), Mason contributed $1.14 billion to the regional economy, accounting for some 11,600 jobs, nearly all of them in the immediate Northern Virginia region. “And 60 percent of those who graduate [from Mason] stay in the area,” he said.
Fuller noted the Great Recession’s “enormous impact on the region” beginning in 2007 and the impacts of the recent sequester; the events caused the loss of 178,000 jobs in the Washington metropolitan area, removing billions of spending dollars from the local economy. In addition, 30 months of federal employment contraction have added up to the region having “the same number of federal workers in Washington as we did in 1980,” Fuller said. In job growth, “only Detroit generated fewer jobs.”
New projections show jobs are on the rise in most sectors, and “the area is poised for growth. Everybody is right-sized,” he said. In short, “this economy is waiting for a sign.”
And once the sign is given, Fuller said, “It’s going to take a long time to get back to where we were, and when we get there, it will be somewhere else.”
Projections until 2018 are modest, but gains are on the way, he said.
In the “Wildcards Impacting the 2014 Forecast” panel discussion, Kathryn Howell, the CRA’s first Kettler Scholar, remarked on the regional housing market. She predicts growth will accelerate and demand for inexpensive housing will rise. “The demand is there,” she said, “and now we have to ramp up construction.” That was good news for the builders in the audience whose market has been hit hardest by current events.
Howell will go into detail about her new study during the Multifamily Housing Forum on Thursday, Jan. 30, beginning at 9:30 a.m. (coffee will be served beginning at 8:30). The study tracks residential changes in the region and addresses the challenges and opportunities those new trends provide. The panel discussion is open to the public and will take place at the Founders Hall Auditorium on Mason’s Arlington Campus.
Write to Buzz McClain at email@example.com