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Insights from the 2017 Southwest Ohio Economic Outlook Conference

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REDI Cincinnati is always looking for trends and insights to help make the Cincinnati region more competitive on the global stage. Earlier this year, I attended the 2017 Southwest Ohio Economic Outlook Conference, hosted by PNC and the UC Real Estate Center, which addresses important economic development trends.

Here’s what presenters expect for the Cincinnati region in 2017:

President Trump’s policies and the U.S. economy

We know President Trump has ambitious goals for the U.S. economy for the next decade, including increasing annual GDP growth to four percent and creating 25 million jobs. All presidents have bold goals, and all come to the same question: Are these goals realistic? According to Stuart Hoffman, chief economist for PNC Bank, no one knows. If past performance is any indicator, the highest total jobs created in a single decade was 23.7 million (1992-2001), and the country last experienced a decade of four percent GDP growth from 1964-1973. If these goals are met during this administration’s term, they will have a lasting impact on the U.S. economy.

Greater Cincinnati’s economy

Hoffman also shared insights regarding our region’s current economic status. The impact of national policies has yet to be felt by the local business community. Despite uncertainty around the new administration’s policies, Greater Cincinnati’s economy is strong. In 2016, regional consumer spending lifted employment in retail, leisure and hospitality. Finance, professional services, healthcare and education had consistent and healthy job growth in the same period. Automotive and aerospace had limited job growth, but was still able to show overall growth as industries.

Some industries will feel the effects of policy change sooner. Manufacturing, and especially domestic steel producers, saw negative impacts from cheap imports (the Cincinnati Enquirer recently reported a 19.6 percent increase in steel imports in the first quarter of this year). Therefore, Hoffman said, trade policies set forth by the U.S. government will be of major for the entire region.

The future of cars

We also heard from Mark Policinski, CEO of OKI Regional Council of Governments, who spoke on the future of transportation and the autonomous cars.

It’s no secret that carmakers are experimenting with autonomous vehicles, but our society may not be catching on to how fast this technology is growing. Recent research findings show that removing human drivers can reduce traffic accidents, which is one big reason car makers are proactively shifting their priorities towards developing autonomous cars.

As consumer demands shift, so will the needs of manufacturers and their suppliers. While Policinski did not give recommendations for future action, the implication from this discussion is that the quicker our region adapts to new technology, the better positioned we will be for future development.

What’s next for Cincinnati?

Oscar Bedolla, City of Cincinnati’s director of economic development, outlined upcoming infrastructure projects that are expected to yield a positive impact. The city anticipates re-construction of the I-71 MLK interchange will create 700 acres for development, with potential businesses creating up to 7,000 jobs. The City of Cincinnati is also expected to invest $54 million on roadway improvements and $270 million on waterways over the next five years. The biggest investment will be a $2.1-billion sewer system upgrade beginning in 2018 to prevent skyrocketing utility costs for residents and businesses and to meet growing demand on the system as surrounding suburbs expand.

The message was clear from all the speakers we heard at the conference – Greater Cincinnati’s economy is not slowing down. Investment in key infrastructure will position the region for sustained economic success and future growth.  

Do you have additional insights on the economic outlook for the region? Share them with me at lmesones@redicincinnati.com or (513) 562-8442.