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2017 Economic Outlook Forum

February 15th, 2017 by Amanda Huggett

This year’s Economic Outlook Forum once again welcomed top national economist Dr. Jim Paulsen, who presented to nearly 600 attendees about national and global economic trends. But first, Marshall Albright of Cass County Electric, the event’s presenting sponsor, kicked off the afternoon with a brief welcome to attendees.

Jim Paulsen economic outlook forum

Then, Scott Green, market president at Starion Bank, shared the results of the recent FMWF Business Conditions Survey, in which Chamber member companies provided feedback about how the economy has affected their business. He compared this year’s results to prior years, to illustrate any changes in local economic trends.

Green noted that the trend seemed to be optimism and stability among businesses in our region.

  • The top factor positively affecting performance was domestic sales increase, followed by a strong state economy.
  • The top factor negatively affecting performance was a domestic sales shortfall, followed by higher operating costs.
  • Regionally, most of us (58%) are optimistic about 2017 compared to the previous year.
  • The #1 factor expected to adversely impact business in the next 12 months was difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified employees. Note that this result has not changed since 2013.
  • Most survey responders also felt that our infrastructure is adequate for future expansion (73% this year said yes, versus only 55% last year). Of those that said it is not adequate, expansion of affordable housing was the top improvement to be made.

“In summary, we are fortunate to live in a vibrant community, but it does present challenges. Challenges that overall we can certainly handle,” Green closed with.


Next, Paulsen took the stage and focused much of his presentation on the current global economic recovery, which he noted was in its eighth year, making it the longest one ever. That’s not to say a long recovery is a bad thing, though, as the silver lining is that speed kills recovery. He also noted that this recovery is the only one in U.S. history without confidence. “We’re overscared, but I think that’s about to change,” he said.

Another theme Paulsen recognized was that the U.S. has returned to full employment, which can change the nature of our recovery going forward. He also says that the housing sector is in really strong shape, and in the business sector, corporate debt to profit ratio is the lowest it has been since the 1960s.

Millennials play an important part in our recovery, too, and a large driver of growth. Employment among millennials is growing more than twice as fast as the national average. “You’ve got a group that is at the epicenter of incoming job creation, their confidence is up, and they’re at the point of starting to form households,” he said.

A favorite moment for many attendees was Paulsen saying that we’re not in a bear market, nor a bull market, but rather, a bunny market – “one that hops around a lot and doesn’t go very far.”

Overall, Paulsen presented optimism for our economy, and perfectly weaved humor into his points. We appreciate his willingness to come back for the second year, and we once again thank all of our sponsors for making this event possible.

Check out some of our favorite Tweets from the event!


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