The Wildey Theatre had a full house this morning as city staff and local business owners attended the annual Economic Forecast Breakfast. The event was organized by Economic/Community Development Director Walt Williams and featured several key speakers, including Dr. Tim Sullivan, of SIUE, Cathy Hamilton with the BARBERMurphy Group as the moderator, Mike Hurley from Balke Brown Transwestern, and others. The focus of the breakfast discussed the predicted economic outlook for the new year.
Patton started off the discussion and said this past year was one for the record for the city of Edwardsville.
“It was a record year for total investment. We also had a record year for job creation and we had a record year for investment in our downtown. The city of Edwardsville is turning up, a city of both tradition and progress, from our infrastructure improvements to demolition of vacant, underutilized structures to construction of new state-of-the-art buildings. Business is being redefined in Edwardsville,” Patton said.
The city has seen new additions in the year 2016, including the newly-constructed headquarters of First to the Finish, the SIUE Fire Station, Prairie Farms, Madison County Mutual Auto Insurance Company in Park Plaza, and various others.
Patton said the city has also made significant progress with projects, both finished and those still in the works.
“We’ve also completed a lot of infrastructure projects ourselves. As you know, the new fire station out at SIUE, $3.5 million investment makes our campus safer, makes our community safer by getting down to the warehouse district where we have over five thousand workers on a daily basis. We also completed Leon Corlew Spray ‘n Play Park…we had over 500 visitors a day for the first two and a half weeks, so we’re proud of that,” he said.
“The result of this synergy is an existing business is growing in Edwardsville. Thirty percent of our 893 registered businesses have hired new employees for 2016. Our residents consider Edwardsville to be an excellent investment choice. In 2016, 67 permits were issued for downtown Edwardsville improvements. These permits had a value just under $4 million,” he added.
With new local businesses that have joined the Edwardsville area, including Where They Roam, the Water Sweet Soap Company, Taqueria Z, and others, Patton said with more business comes more investors.
“When current businesses and committee members continue to invest in our community, it sends a message to other investors that they need to be here as well. These numbers prove that Edwardsville is open for business. Our goal under my administration has always been and will always be to encourage bustling economic activity while maintaining and building on the character of our neighborhoods and the quality of our family life. Edwardsville is absolutely a place where you can live, learn, work and play under a great example of government that works,” he said.
Dr. Sullivan then took to the stage to give his proposed national and local economic outlook for the new year. Taking into consideration the national economic downfalls, Sullivan said there are a few uncertainties.
“Since the year 2000, we haven’t been anywhere near (a) three-and-a-half percent (increase). In fact, what we’ve averaged, annual rate, would be 1.8 percent. The slow down started quickly after 2000 but it really accelerated in the second part of that decade,” Sullivan said. “This is not just the recession. We’ve had eleven recessions since World War II…but this is the typical pattern. The economy slows, it shrinks, it starts to grow again and then it shoots up and gets us back on that three-and-a-half percent growth track within a few years. So of course this what everybody expected to be happening back in 2003, 2004, 2005.”
With the Illinois annual economic growth being less than 1 percent, 0.8 percent, Sullivan said his prediction is as follows: 2.3 percent increase for the U.S., 1.3 percent for Illinois, 1 percent for St. Louis/MSA and 1.5 for Madison County.
“In the context of the last fifteen years, these are somewhat optimistic numbers. We haven’t had these growth rates for the last fifteen years so this is optimistic,” he said. “They’re pessimistic by World War II standards, but they’re optimistic for 2000 and beyond standards.”
Sullivan said he is still keeping an eye on the economic changes that are sure to occur over the course of this year.
If there are drastic changes, Sullivan said his predictions are subject to change accordingly.
“We don’t know whether NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) is going to be broken open and renegotiated, we still don’t have a budget in Springfield, then I’d probably want to slice off a tenth or two of a percentage point on the forecast. If you told me by the beginning of summer that we’ll have a budget in Springfield and some of the national things have been resolved. One way or another, regardless of how they get resolved, I’d probably want to bump up an extra tenth or two of a percentage point onto my forecast. Again it’s just the drag of the uncertainty,” he said.
Other key speakers discussed a market analysis for Class A office spaces in Edwardsville, city projects currently in the works and upcoming opportunities for local business owners as well.
For more information about local businesses or economic development, contact Walt Williams via email at email@example.com or call 618-692-7533.