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Thursday, January 28, 2010


By: Brian D. Anderson Sr.
President & CEO
Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce


At a recent meeting, one of the speakers discussed the latest thinking around New Year’s resolutions. The main themes of resolutions can be as simple as eating less and exercising more, or saving more money than the year before. The main takeaway I heard from the discussion of resolutions is that most people that do establish them are not any better off than those who don’t. In true candor, I have in the past created a few resolutions. This year, however, I chose not to.

Without a few good goals to pursue (or guilt inducers to worry over), how can I enter 2010 confidently and focused? After surviving 2008 and 2009, I decided that 2010 has to be better. My efforts must be entirely focused on making 2010 much better. Most of us have been tremendously blessed. As we witness the devastating effects of the earthquake in Haiti, we would be wise to count our blessings in spite of tough economic times.

It is with these thoughts that I enter the new year. I have no misperceptions that 2010 will be a return to boom times. But I also do not enter it with feelings of discouragement or worry. I begin this new year cautiously and mindful that we can make it better than the last two. My feelings of caution could quickly turn to optimism with just a hint of progress. I have said it before, the Dalton-Whitfield community is a resilient community and I am bullish on our community going into 2010.

Why would any of us be cautiously optimistic? Let me share a few of the reasons that might provide for a much improved 2010. Over the last 18 months, during the longest economic slowdown in our community’s post-depression era, your Chamber (working collaboratively with many) developed and implemented the Grow Greater Dalton campaign. This effort was created solely to enable our community to have an accelerated level of resources for economic development. After a year of presenting the goals developed by a large number of stakeholders, investors ranging from individuals, small business owners, large industry leaders, and local government leaders have pledged over $6 million for creating a stronger economic future for our community.

The Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Economic Development Authority now has the resources it needs to fully enable us to compete locally, regionally and globally. Our community’s economic development team will have the resources to market us and be able to recruit companies within targeted industries that are looking for communities to invest in as they expand. Our economic development team, working with regional partners in Chattanooga and Cleveland, will be able to make the most of the huge investments being made by Volkswagon and Wacker Chemical. It is a real bonus that we are surrounded by aggressive and visionary leaders.

After being selected as an Archway Partnership community and having one of the largest listening sessions in Archway’s history, the executive committee has been created and is busy prioritizing the feedback presented by the community. Under the leadership of our Archway Executive, Melissa Lu, the Archway team will be delivering results for our community similar to the successes experienced by the other seven Archway communities in Georgia.

Our local governments are working diligently to position us strategically. They are investing in infrastructure, reinventing the role of government, and maintaining low tax rates and/or reducing taxes. They are researching and debating the merits of consolidating services in order to better utilize crucial yet limited tax revenues.

Although I worry about the things that others do, I also try to look for the positives in most situations. And given the circumstances of many, I continue to see the upside available to our community. Recently Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond spoke to the Dalton Rotary Club. During his speech, he complimented our community for pulling together and proactively developing and implementing plans and programs that would generate positive returns for us. While it may seem easy to sit back and sing the blues while waiting for someone to take care of us - that is not in our DNA. Our heritage pushes us to work for a better tomorrow.

Regardless of how we all feel going into 2010, there is good scientific data that can provide some insight into what the new year could have in store for us. Although some would argue that listening to economists is like betting the farm on the local weatherman, I would argue that those in the economic forecasting field and the meteorological field are right most of the time. On Tuesday, January 26th, Dean Robert Sumichrast, Dean of the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia will be the Keynote speaker for the next Wake-Up Whitfield. The session will be at the Dalton Golf and Country Club from 8:00am-9:00am. Dean Sumichrast will provide his best insight into the 2010 economy.

The Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce works hard for our member-investors. We understand your passion for this community and we feel the same. We will work tirelessly throughout 2010 creating a better tomorrow built on the heritage of those that came before us. Let us be mindful of our blessings while we work hard to develop our opportunities!

Economy will see a Sustained Recovery

By: Brian D. Anderson Sr.
President & CEO
Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce

Economy will see a Sustained Recovery

As mentioned in my column last week, we received the economic forecast for the national economy, our Georgia economy, and our local economy. Dean Robert Sumichrast of the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia spoke at yesterday’s “Wake-Up Whitfield”. The headline according to Dean Sumichrast is - our economy will experience a sustained recovery in 2010.

A sustained recovery was as positive as he could put it. And although a sustained recovery is not a bed of roses or means that everything is back to normal, it is better than “we are still heading for a cliff.” After experiencing the “Great Recession”, as many are calling it, what is normal? Some have even coined a new term called the new normal. Regardless of what we call the economic period that we are in, it seems the worst is behind us. Although deep recessions are usually followed by explosive growth, this recession will be followed by very slow growth.

Dr. Sumichrast cautioned that although we will see positive economic indicators throughout 2010 with significant improvement in 2011, this recovery will not feel like recovery for a long time. Job losses and high unemployment will continue to weigh down consumer confidence and the overall economic climate throughout 2010. Georgia’s employment will decline from 3.9 million jobs in 2000 to 3.8 million in 2010. All of the jobs created over the last decade plus some will be lost by the middle of 2010.

Job losses and unemployment is a national issue, a Georgia issue, and a local community issue. Unemployment in Georgia will top out around 11% by mid-summer. Nationally we have lost 5% of all jobs in the “Great Recession.” Dalton will have lost over 16%. Due to the issues surrounding the housing crisis, we have been hit much harder in Georgia and Dalton than the rest of the country. All the issues that have contributed to our economic plight have also hurt Georgia’s banks much more adversely than any other state. By August 2009, the Dalton MSA had the highest unemployment rate in Georgia at 12.8% with a loss of over 6,000 jobs.

There are positives coming out of the “Great Recession.” People are saving more with saving rates increasing from 1% in 2006 to over 4% in 2009. As jobs do begin to come back in the 2nd quarter of 2010, spending will increase. And as consumer spending increases, it will ignite business spending that will fuel the sustained recovery.

Imports and exports will begin to accelerate with exports outpacing imports nationally. Georgia will benefit more than most because of the positive impact of imports on our state economy. Because of our ports and the infrastructure associated with imports, Georgia will be positively impacted by the imbalance of imports versus exports.

And because Georgia is still very pro-business, enjoys a low to moderate tax rate, and is an attractive place for business to invest, we will see better than average investment coming into Georgia as businesses expand and relocate. The “Great Recession” has only heightened Georgia’s attractiveness for business investment. The Georgia Department of Economic Development had 327 projects come to Georgia in 2009. That is a significant increase over 2008. The department is forecasting positive trends for investment in 2010. And many of the recent big announcements (KIA, NCR, and IVC) are just beginning to come online or will do so in 2010.

Although foreclosures have been devastating in Georgia and locally, the trends seem to be improving. Dr. Sumichrast and his team do not forecast a second wave of foreclosures. In fact, as people go back to work or begin to get overtime due to businesses not hiring in the short-term, foreclosure exposure should diminish.

The positive news in the housing arena is that existing home pricing has stabilized. Home prices in 2010 should see growth in 2010. In 2010, housing will accelerate Georgia’s economy for the first time since 2005. Although Georgia saw a decrease of -12% in home prices, prices in the Dalton MSA only experienced a decrease of -6%. Homes in Georgia may actually be under-valued currently.

The residential sector will begin to see growth in 2010. The growth will be double-digit but against very low numbers from 2009. The non-residential sector will be devastatingly dismal. It will more than likely erase the gains from the residential sector.

As Dr. Sumichrast said during his presentation, now is the time to invest, to look for a job or a better job, to start a business, or to look for other economic opportunities. The sustained recovery will not be glamorous or fun but improving nonetheless. Given the actions and posture of our local elected officials, we have the tools necessary to be successful. Our City of Dalton leaders have cut spending and lowered taxes. Whitfield County’s leaders have maintained very low taxes while investing in a new Commerce Park. Our other municipalities offer good service delivery at minimal costs with minimal if any property taxes.

I am grateful to Dr. Sumichrast and the entire Terry College of Business who have put together a first-class economic forecast. His presentation yesterday enabled a large turnout for the Chamber’s first Wake-Up Whitfield event for 2010 to be a huge success. Working together, we will continue to be successful in 2010!