Scouting Ahead – Experts Weigh in on 2019

Scouting Ahead – Experts Weigh in on 2019

It’s just about time to start getting your new calendar ready as we enter into the last few weeks of 2018. Most companies already have their sights set on what the new year may bring. A recent Business and Economic Outlook event held in Valparaiso by the Northwest Indiana Business RoundTable (NWIBRT) aimed to shed some light on what various industry experts are expecting over the coming months.

Workers are Needed

Many of the roughly 250 people in attendance were business owners and representatives of leading companies. Understandably, many of them were concerned about workforce development initiatives.

Bryon Silk, executive director of business services with the Indiana DWD, provided detail on various components of the Next Level Jobs initiate and ways in which employers can offset the costs of training employees in high-demand jobs. He encouraged employers to consider participating, because signing up is easy and they can be reimbursed up to $50,000 total to augment their employee’s skillsets. According to the most recent data, about 1,100 companies in the state have applied for the program.

Energy is Getting Cleaner

For the outlook for the natural gas and energy sector, Business Management Director Thomas Mikucki from Kinder Morgan spoke about key trends affecting the energy market. Due to high supply, the price of natural gas is expected to remain rather low, even with increasing demand. Solar, wind, and natural gas are forecasted to increase their share of total U.S. power generation while coal and nuclear generators are projected to shrink.

Recovery Driven by Policy

In his outlook for the financial sector, Steve Skalka, trust investment manager for Horizon Trust & Investment Management, said that the GDP growth of the U.S. this year outpaced many of the world’s larger economies and that growth has been largely driven by policy. Corporate and individual tax cuts, low unemployment rates, increased government spending, low inflation, and decreased regulation have all been policy factors driving this growth. All of this amounts to an expected growth rate above 2% for 2019 but a new growth driver will likely be needed as we move into the next decade.

Highway Revenue is Growing

INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness provided data on the major roadway investments the state will be undertaking over the next few years. The total state highway revenue for FY22 is projected to be more than double the spending amounts Indiana saw in FY17. Under the governor’s Next Level Roads initiative, mobility-boosting projects are literally taking place over just about every square inch of the state map. The end result will be the ability to provide the infrastructure companies and communities will need to grow.

Rail Projects are On Track

Bill Hanna, executive director of the NWI Regional Development Authority, provided updates on the region’s two major commuter rail projects; the $712 million West Lake corridor extension and the $376 million double tracking of the South Shore line. Both of these projects come with numerous quality-of-place upgrades and major investments in areas along their routes. By 2040, an estimated $2.3 billion in private investment could result from the increased connectivity. Recently, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) approved contracts totaling nearly $36 million related to the two projects and project management teams have been selected.

NWI’s in Good Shape

Lastly, Dr. Micah Pollak, professor of economics with IUN, was pleased to share optimistic news with the attendees. 2018 brought about a marked uptick in growth for the NWI region; about 2.7% so far for the year. For comparison, we averaged about 1.3% per year between 2012-2017.

For the first time since the recession, NWI has seen a reversal in recent employment trends. Goods-producing jobs (which are traditionally higher-paying) are on the rise. Previously, they had been lagging behind service-sector jobs. Additionally, the steel, retail, and construction industries are growing and employment is rising.

Good News

All in all, much of the information delivered by the presenters was positive for the region, the state, and the U.S. overall. As you and your company turn your calendars over to the next year, do so with optimism for the coming months. Good things lie ahead.

Category Business Buzz