Economy is good now, next year not as certain

SWED Executive Director Dave Ryan offered a mixed report on where the local economy is heading, but stressed that excellent regional cooperation is keeping development efforts unified.

Business conditions on southern Delmarva are strong, but there’s real concern the fun could begin to end over the next year.

“There’s a divergence of opinion on how we’re doing and where we’re going, collectively as a country, state and region in an economic sense,” Dave Ryan, Executive Director of Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development, told a gathering of business leaders at the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce 31st annual Economic Forecast.

Ryan cited a number of business headlines that have appeared of late, some signaling continued good news and others offering something of a warning to businesses large and small.

The uncertainty “also gives us a clear direction going forward,” he said, and then went on to recommend that businesses “stick to the knitting” and focus on what they already do best.

“Maybe that bodes well for us too, moving forward,” Ryan said. “Those  entities, those employees, those key economic entities in which we find strength and breadth and depth — the ag and agribusiness, and poultry — are clearly the underlying foundations of our economy.”

Locally, the unemployment rate remains low, but job opportunities are also starting to erode. Employers are unable to find skilled workers, yet workers are unable to find work that is meaningful to them.

Ryan said that programs like the Wicomico Economic Impact Scholarship, which taps Wor-Wic Community College to provide free tuition for county high school graduates, is an investment designed to train students for both meaningful and needed jobs.

The forum was held Friday at Salisbury University a drew well over 300 top business and academic leaders, nonprofit directors and government officials. The university’s Business Economic and Community Outreach Network, which provides research on key economic trends, released a survey the same day that also painted a mixed evaluation of trends and forecasts.

Overall economic activity on Maryland’s Lower Shore, Accomack, Dorchester and Sussex counties, was projected as neutral to slower in 2019, compared to a year of growth in 2018.

Wages are forecast to see moderate growth, as they did in 2018. Retail buying-and-selling sectors are expected to shift from moderate growth to neutral. The housing market, in most of its sectors, is expected to slip from moderate growth in 2018 to neutral in 2019.

For the first time in the forum’s history, development directors from the neighboring counties participated with presentations.

Kathryn Gordon of Worcester County reported that development has been strong in West Ocean City with new restaurants and hotels going in. She said 2018 was “the best year ever” for Worcester.

Danny Thompson of Somerset County reported that progress had been made in lowering chronically high unemployment and that Eastern Correctional Institution, Rubberset and seafood packing houses.

Jeff Trice of Dorchester County touted county tourism related to the Harriet Tubman Trail, reported that downtown Cambridge was succeeding with a wide array of restaurants and pubs, and said the new North Dorchester High School was nearing completion near Hurlock.

William Pfaff of Sussex County described how his territory was really two counties, with economic engines running quite differently east and west of Route 113. He reported that real estate and tourism remains strong at the beaches, with poultry continuing to drive the rural economy.

Julie Bellamy of Accomack County reported the Virginia county is seeing a great boost, thanks largely to activities on Wallops Island, but is also growing away from space business efforts.

Also heard in Friday’s presentations:

Dawn Veatch, Manager of the Salisbury-Wicomico Regional Airport, reported that the airport is on course to receive municipal water service and that new hangars are in the planning stages.

Chris Perdue of Perdue Farms said the trade tariff war with China is killing grain prices and causing disruption across the agribusiness and poultry industries.

Salisbury University President Dr. Charles Wight said recruiting Eastern Shore students is among his goals.

Bamdad Bahar of Xergy Inc. said fossil fuels will be replaced with green initiatives.

Steve Leonard, President of Peninsula Regional Medical Center, said the health group will continue strengthening its efforts to reach out to the public and teach them how to live a healthy lifestyle.

Wicomico Schools Superintendent Dr. Donna Hanlin promoted her message that adequately funding public education must be seen as an investment, not merely as a government expense.

Business conditions on southern Delmarva are strong, but there’s real concern the fun could begin to end over the next year.

“There’s a divergence of opinion on how we’re doing and where we’re going, collectively as a country, state and region in an economic sense,” Dave Ryan, Executive Director of Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development, told a gathering of business leaders at the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce 31st annual Economic Forecast.

Ryan cited a number of business headlines that have appeared of late, some signaling continued good news and others offering something of a warning to businesses large and small.

The uncertainty “also gives us a clear direction going forward,” he said, and then went on to recommend that businesses “stick to the knitting” and focus on what they already do best.

“Maybe that bodes well for us too, moving forward,” Ryan said. “Those  entities, those employees, those key economic entities in which we find strength and breadth and depth — the ag and agribusiness, and poultry — are clearly the underlying foundations of our economy.”

Locally, the unemployment rate remains low, but job opportunities are also starting to erode. Employers are unable to find skilled workers, yet workers are unable to find work that is meaningful to them.

Ryan said that programs like the Wicomico Economic Impact Scholarship, which taps Wor-Wic Community College to provide free tuition for county high school graduates, is an investment designed to train students for both meaningful and needed jobs.

The forum was held Friday at Salisbury University a drew well over 300 top business and academic leaders, nonprofit directors and government officials. The university’s Business Economic and Community Outreach Network, which provides research on key economic trends, released a survey the same day that also painted a mixed evaluation of trends and forecasts.

Overall economic activity on Maryland’s Lower Shore, Accomack, Dorchester and Sussex counties, was projected as neutral to slower in 2019, compared to a year of growth in 2018.

Wages are forecast to see moderate growth, as they did in 2018. Retail buying-and-selling sectors are expected to shift from moderate growth to neutral. The housing market, in most of its sectors, is expected to slip from moderate growth in 2018 to neutral in 2019.

For the first time in the forum’s history, development directors from the neighboring counties participated with presentations.

Kathryn Gordon of Worcester County reported that development has been strong in West Ocean City with new restaurants and hotels going in. She said 2018 was “the best year ever” for Worcester.

Danny Thompson of Somerset County reported that progress had been made in lowering chronically high unemployment and that Eastern Correctional Institution, Rubberset and seafood packing houses.

Jeff Trice of Dorchester County touted county tourism related to the Harriet Tubman Trail, reported that downtown Cambridge was succeeding with a wide array of restaurants and pubs, and said the new North Dorchester High School was nearing completion near Hurlock.

William Pfaff of Sussex County described how his territory was really two counties, with economic engines running quite differently east and west of Route 113. He reported that real estate and tourism remains strong at the beaches, with poultry continuing to drive the rural economy.

Julie Bellamy of Accomack County reported the Virginia county is seeing a great boost, thanks largely to activities on Wallops Island, but is also growing away from space business efforts.

Also heard in Friday’s presentations:

  • Dawn Veatch, Manager of the Salisbury-Wicomico Regional Airport, reported that the airport is on course to receive municipal water service and that new hangars are in the planning stages.
  • Chris Perdue of Perdue Farms said the trade tariff war with China is killing grain prices and causing disruption across the agribusiness and poultry industries.
  • Salisbury University President Dr. Charles Wight said recruiting Eastern Shore students is among his goals.
  • Bamdad Bahar of Xergy Inc. said fossil fuels will be replaced with green initiatives.
  • Steve Leonard, President of Peninsula Regional Medical Center, said the health group will continue strengthening its efforts to reach out to the public and teach them how to live a healthy lifestyle.
  • Wicomico Schools Superintendent Dr. Donna Hanlin promoted her message that adequately funding public education must be seen as an investment, not merely as a government expense.

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

As your community newspaper, we are committed to making Salisbury a better place. You can help support our mission by making a voluntary contribution to the newspaper.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment