Is the 2017-18 economy as good as it gets?
About 10 percent of Eastside business leaders are less enthused about 2018 business expansion in the Puget Sound region compared to those surveyed last year.
But that’s not to say the majority aren’t optimistic.
According to the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce’s annual Eastside Business Leader survey, 78 percent of business leaders on the Eastside and Seattle are optimistic – which is still quite high compared to the region’s low of 36 percent in 2008 during the Great Recession.
Of those who expect expansion, growth is estimated to occur in marketing and sales positions, administration and industry/technical specialist roles.
“Overall, Eastside business leaders continue their optimism into 2018 with 51 percent noting they are more optimistic than this time last year,” the survey states. “This is up 44 percent from last year.”
Bellevue Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Betty Capestany presented the survey’s results at the chamber’s annual 2018 Economic Forecast at Meydenbauer Center Thursday morning.
Gary Guenther, a senior vice president and partner of Kidder Mathews, Dan Duke of US Trust and keynote Joe Quinlan, the chief market strategist of Bank of America, also spoke at the event, which had 350 in attendance, including Bellevue City Councilmember Kevin Wallace, and Bellevue City Council members-elect Janice Zahn and Jared Niewuwenhuis.
However, of the business owners surveyed, 12 percent believe the economy will remain unchanged, which is up 5 percent from last year.
As the fifth-largest city in Washington with 140,000 residents, Bellevue’s business atmosphere is a good indicator of current and future economic climate in the region.
“As we chart the trends year after year, we are amazed at how accurate an account the data reflects on what is happening in our marketplace,” the chamber stated in their 2018 Eastside Economic Strategy Guide, noting the chamber has been tracking the economic outlook for 24 years.
Next year, 73 percent of business leaders expect revenues to be stronger (76 percent believed so last year) and 22 percent feel their revenues would hold steady (18 percent felt this way last year).
The workforce prediction is more positive than last year with 53 percent of survey respondents expecting to add employees to their company in 2017, according to the chamber’s survey. The most job growth, in relation to company size, is expected within companies of 100-250 employees and 11-50 employees.
Yet, challenges from last year will remain.
Transportation infrastructure and congestion was the top concern with employee health care costs, business taxation, regulation and utilities rates, and regional economic climate following behind.
National challenges include, again, cost of health care, federal legislation, cyber security and the global economy.
Quinlan, who oversees the development and implementation of macro investment strategies, has a focus on U.S. sector strategies, emerging markets and developed markets. He is responsible for Bank of America’s global thematic research and has been cited in Barron’s The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, among others.
At the forecast, he said the good news for this year and 2018 is the United States economy is “firing on all cylinders” with consumerism and consumption a driving force.
Some examples, he noted, were the $9 billion spent on Halloween and the $17.8 million individually spent on actor Paul Newman’s 1968 Rolex Daytona in October.
The bad news?
“This is as good as it gets,” Quinlan said. “Enjoy it.”
He informed the business community to watch consumer credit loans, automobile loans and student loans “very carefully,” as they would be indicators of a dip.
If he did have any fear for next year’s economy, it would be that it runs too hot and companies would be forced to “pay up,” he said.
Luckily, he doesn’t foresee any recession in 2018.