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SBDC hosts Economic Outlook Conference

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Ted Abernathy, executive director of the Southern Growth Policies Board, was the keynote speaker for the eighth annual Economic Outlook Conference, presented Sept. 15 by the Springfield Business Development Corp. at the Ramada Oasis Convention Center.

Abernathy’s North Carolina-based public policy think tank provides economic development research and advice for 13 southern states. At the conference, he pointed to data collected by the organization that paints a somewhat murky picture of what he called a stagnant economy.

“The U.S. economy is not wonderful, but it is also not terrible,” Abernathy said. “The glass is about half full, and it’s about half empty.”

In 2009, the U.S. economy lost 8.5 million jobs, Abernathy said, and even though 44 out of the 50 states have reported job growth in the last 12 months, it would take 12 years to gain back the ground lost during that time.

He said U.S. exports, up 4.2 percent since January 2009, are a bright spot looking forward, and the U.S. trade imbalance, currently at -3.3 percent, is improving as a result.

Still, job growth is struggling to keep pace with population growth. The national unemployment rate of roughly 9 percent should perhaps not be surprising considering it takes 125,000 new jobs every month just to keep the unemployment rate from growing, he said.

Businesses are saving more, however, with $2 trillion saved by the country’s top 2000 companies in 2010. And they are more profitable, too, Abernathy said. Last year, companies saw profits rise by 69 percent – both good signs for the future.

Larry Snyder, CEO of Ozark-based construction contractors Larry Snyder & Co., said the local construction industry has been hit hard by the recent recession but should be poised for a rebound as more companies look to expand or move into the Springfield market. For example, in 2006, 7,480 construction workers labored on projects in Greene County, compared to 5,419 currently, Snyder said.

Jeff Childs, senior adviser for Sperry Van Ness/Rankin Co. LLC, said the increased scrutiny by lenders on developers and businesses has been tough, but necessary, and he sees a bright future for the area.

“Whether the glass is half full or half empty, I’m drinking it,” Childs said. “There are a lot of opportunities in Springfield.”

For more on the the Economic Outlook Conference, look to the Sept. 19 Springfield Business Journal print edition.[[In-content Ad]]

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