Outlook Good: Expert Says U.S. Economy Doing Well Despite Uncertainties

Interest rates are likely to go up, oil prices are likely to increase a bit and then stabilize, and the overall U.S. economy is fairly strong – provided the federal government stops being dysfunctional.

That was the word from Gregory Miller, the chief economist at SunTrust Bank, at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s annual Economic Outlook Briefing Thursday morning.

The big concern right now: will the Fed raise interest rates? This month officials dropped the word “patience” in their report, which signals a possible increase around June. Some economists worry that could slow economic growth, but Miller says it’s important to remember that interest rates are historically low right now.

“Rising rates are not the same as high rates,” he says. “We have a long, long way to go to get to high interest rates.”

And he says a hike in interest rates could actually boost the economy in the short term – since it’ll lead investors to borrow money quickly, to avoid higher rates in the future.

Generally speaking, Miller says the overall U.S. economy is doing well – especially relative to the rest of the world. That means a strong dollar, which means lower prices for Americans at the stores.

Miller says the American economy is growing at a rate of about 2.4 percent. Economists say a 3-percent growth rate is needed to keep up with increasing job demands – but Miller says the private sector is actually already doing that well. What’s holding the economy back? He says the federal government is simply failing to pull its weight.

“The government’s started to come back,” he says. “State and local governments are already back – the federal government is the only one that’s (still) moving in the wrong direction.

“We suspect that through this year, the (federal) government should start to make a positive contribution to growth. If they do that, then the whole economy (will be) doing 3 percent – and everybody’s happy.”

Miller delivered his economic outlook briefing to a group of about 200 local business leaders and elected officials Thursday at the Friday Center. It was an optimistic outlook, in general – but he did say the positive trends could be jeopardized by increasing instability.

That could come globally if there is conflict or if other national economies collapse – or it could come domestically, when election season rolls around next year.

“When we are headed toward elections, the markets and the economy tend to turn uncertain,” Miller says.

So expect a possible slowdown next year – but until then, Miller says the overall picture is good.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/outlook-good-expert-says-u-s-economy-doing-well-despite-uncertainties/

Chilton, OCRCC Among Honorees At Chamber Mtg

CHAPEL HILL – About 400 political and business leaders gathered at the Friday Center on Thursday for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting, to honor outstanding local businesses, nonprofits, and individuals.

Meg McGurk of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership set the tone in her keynote address. “Downtown has reached a tipping point,” she told the attendees. “The private sector is investing in downtown on unprecedented levels, the public sector has taken a new pride in engaging in our downtown…(and) you are the ones that are making that change happen.”

The highlight of the annual meeting was the awarding of the Chamber’s annual Business of the Year honors:

• The Micro-Enterprise Business of the Year award went to Sweeps, a company that matches UNC students with locals in need of moving, cleaning, tutoring, and other odd jobs.

Vimala’s Curryblossom Café beat out 140 West Franklin and the newly expanded PTA Thrift Shop for the Mid-Size Business of the Year award.

• The Large Business of the Year honor went to ARCA, an international manufacturer and distributer with global headquarters in Mebane.

• The Orange County Rape Crisis Center won the Chamber’s Nonprofit of the Year award.

And the Chamber also recognized three individuals as well. Longtime volunteer Irene Briggaman won the Ambassador of the Year award; UNC Executive Director of Real Estate Gordon Merklein won the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service award for his work not only with UNC, but also with various local service organizations. And outgoing Chamber board chair Paige Zinn recognized former Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton with the Chamber’s award for Leadership in Public-Private Partnership.

“Mark has demonstrated that you can support economic and community development without forswearing your interest in the environment and social justice,” Zinn said of Chilton.

Attendees at the meeting included state government officials, the three mayors of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough, and all but one member of the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

http://chapelboro.com/news/business/local-leaders-businesses-honor-local-leaders-businesses/

A Golden Celebration, 50 years of the IFC

The Inter-Faith Counsel celebrated 50 years of service at the Friday Center Thursday, June 6 with smooth jazz, delicious food and drinks – catered by Carolina Catering and Top Of The Hill, respectively. Ron Stutts emceed the event and speakers included Reverend Robert Seymour and J. Freeman. The elegance of the event was impeccable and second to none, except to the illuminated hearts of those involved, apart, or a product of, the Inter-Faith Counsel.

http://chapelboro.com/photos/a-golden-celebration-50-years-of-the-ifc/