Economist: Next Three Years Will Be Strong

CHAPEL HILL – The national and local economy got off to a slow start this year, but economist Mark Vitner of Wells Fargo says he still expects 2014 to be a strong year overall.

“Most of the numbers that we’re going to see (from February) are likely to be disappointing because the time that those reports are put together, the time period that they reference, is right about the time that we had the big snowstorm,” he said Thursday. “But I think that’s all pretty much a temporary disruption.”

Vitner delivered the keynote address at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Economic Outlook Briefing, Thursday morning at the Sheraton Chapel Hill.

Vitner based his optimism on a number of positive developments—including reduced uncertainty following the federal budget deal; rapid growth in the nation’s energy and tech sectors; and an expected drop in the unemployment rate, down below six percent by the end of the year. He said he expects the improved economy will spur the Fed to raise interest rates sometime in 2015 (though not before).

Even so, Vitner says economic growth will be slower in the future than it has been in the past. Prior to the recession, he says, the U.S. economy grew at an average rate of 3.3 percent per year—but that was sustained in part by heavy debt. Now that credit’s harder to come by, Vitner says growth won’t be quite that fast: he predicts the economy will grow by 2.4 percent in 2014, up about half a point from last year, and by about 3.1 percent in 2015 and 2016.

If that prediction holds, Vitner says we’ll be doing pretty well.

“We think that 2014, 2015 and 2016 will be the three best years of this decade,” he said Thursday.

And with the economy returning to normal, consumer confidence too is up from previous years. But Vitner says people aren’t necessarily feeling more optimistic, just less pessimistic: fewer people say the economy is “bad,” but there’s been no change in the number of people who are ready to say the economy is “good.”

“I kind of sum that out as ‘less bad is good – but more good would be better,'” he quipped. “That’s kind of where the economy is right now.”

Vitner is a Charlotte-based managing director and senior economist for Wells Fargo. More than 100 people were in attendance for his speech on Thursday.

Carrboro High Wins Wells-Fargo Cup

CARRBORO – The coaches and athletic director at CarrboroHigh School say the school’s Wells Fargo Cup wins are thanks to the community and the people that make up the school.

Carrboro high school won the Wells-Fargo cup for the Carolina-12 conference and the 2A division. Wells Fargo Cup points are based on finishes in state championship events.

The Jaguars received high points for its women’s cross country state championship, a pair of state finals berths for men’s soccer and football, second-place finishes for men’s and women’s swimming, and a few individual championships in track and field, among others.

Athletic director April Ross says she’s proud of the students and coaches that made the wins possible.

“We have tremendous pride in CHS Jaguar athletics and it is not only in the school and the academic arena, but going out onto the playing field, the kids are taking that excellence and success and putting it out on the athletic field” said Ross.

The Wells-Fargo cup includes all sports throughout the year. The track and field team saw individual championships from Grace Morken in the 800 and 1,600 meters races, Scott Peretin in the discus and shot put, and Carrboro’s 4×800 and 4×400 relay teams. Coach Mimi O’Grady says the future of the team wasn’t always known.

“I coach the men’s and women’s distance athletes on the team, and I showed up not exactly sure how we were going to perform by May, but one day at a time we ended up having the strongest state finish we’ve ever had” said O’Grady.

The Carrboro Track & Field team had many senior this year that helped to bring the Wells-Fargo Cup home. O’Grady says despite the graduation, she is not concerned about the team’s performance in the upcoming year. She says she looks forward to seeing the new athletes perform.

“On the girl’s side I did lose quite a bit of heavy hitters, six seniors all together, four that were big score keepers, on the men’s side though less of a loss.  I lost two senior guys and the men’s team is going to have a good cross country season with a whole crop of very strong rising seniors” O’Grady comments.

With a strong track team, Coach Melvin Griffin comments on where it improved this year to pull in extra points for the cup.

“Realized that we are able in the past two years, even though we have been successful, to score points in the hurdles, sprints, and the throws which helped us out. And then obviously this year with the boys who did finish third, only had five boys in the state meet and finished third; and an individual Scott Peretin win shot and disk” said Griffin.

Carrboro High is the youngest high school in the district with seven years under its belt. For more information, click here. For the complete standings, click here.