This week, some local business officials had their eggs and bacon with a side of economic forecast.
On Tuesday morning, members of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual economic outlook breakfast at the Cumming Recreation & Parks Department multipurpose room.
The event’s keynote speaker was Kenneth Shiver, chief economist with Southern Company, who gave his thoughts on the local economy and how Forsyth County could be impacted by national and international trends.
“We’ve been doing this for over a decade now,” said James McCoy, chamber president and CEO. “The idea is we bring in an economist who can help great business people become even better business people by making sure they’re the most well-informed they can be.”
A recent push has been made by local officials to increase business in the community. Shiver said trends show less space will be needed for business in the future due to telecommuting at an increased rate and an increase in online sales.
“If you went to the mall during Christmas and went, ‘Gee, it’s not as crowded as usual,’ guess what? You’re right,” Shiver said. “Your friends are shopping at Amazon. This is fundamentally changing our economy.”
Shiver said there were some positives for manufacturing in the region, which he said has been affected more by the global economy in the recent years. He said the increase in manufacturing was due to increased national energy resources, such as fracking.
“In the past five to eight years, I’ve had to focus on what’s going on internationally because the manufacturing sector has become a lot more exposed to international trends,” he said. “In fact, 25 percent of what is produced here in the southeast is exported.”
Being dependent on the international economy, Shiver said, does bring risks for tariffs and trade wars, which have been discussed nationwide after recent tariffs proposed by President Donald Trump.
“It’s kind of interesting because most of our exports in the Southeast [in the past] went to Europe, but over the last two years, our major trading partner is actually Asia, and that’s more than just China,” Shiver said. “This is something we’ve got to keep our eye on because the extent trade slows down, it will impact our manufacturing sector.”
Shiver said otherwise, consumer confidence rose significantly after Trump’s election.
Attendee Dan Wolf said he thought it was “great to see such a large room full of people, all with similar interests in business and economics to listen and ask questions. I thought the presentation was very good. I would have loved to have studied those charts more, but it was fairly precise.”