NC business leaders: Economy predicted to grow 4 percent this year
Posted January 5, 2015
Research Triangle Park, N.C. — Hundreds of business leaders from across North Carolina convened in Research Triangle Park on Monday to hear from experts in the fields of business, government, education and nonprofits about their predictions for the economy in 2015.
The annual Economic Forecast Forum was hosted by the North Carolina Bankers Association and the North Carolina Chamber.
Leaders said the state's economy is predicted to grow 4 percent in 2015 and will add anywhere from 110,000 to 125,000 jobs, compared with 90,000 jobs last year.
Major growth has been seen in single-family-home construction and commercial construction – two areas where North Carolina has been lagging since the bottom fell out in 2008, experts said.
Sammy Lopez has worked 11 years in construction and said he has seen the ups and downs.
"I actually had to stop working for about a year and a half from 2008 almost to 2010," he said.
Lopez said he wondered if he'd survive but now says he's busier than ever.
"It's a good way for us to start off the year. We're all busy," he said. "Hopefully it's a good sign we'll get to stay busy all year."
Mark Vitner, a senior economist with Wells Fargo and a keynote speaker at Monday's economic event, said the economy is not just growing, it's evolving, and that North Carolina is uniquely positioned to adapt well to that.
"I think the real game-changer this past year is that we finally saw job growth kick into higher gear," he said. "For someone who's not watching the economy every day and just living in it, I think the greatest revelation they would have is, 'Wow, the economy really is doing better.'"
The biggest challenge going forward for North Carolina, experts said, is cutting out job polarization and making sure the jobs that are added are middle-income jobs as opposed to very high or very low paying jobs.
Panelists at this year's economic forum included Scott Ralls, president of the N.C. Community College System; John Hardin, executive director, Office of Science, Technology & Innovation (OSTI) at the North Carolina Department of Commerce; and Steve Yager, vice president, Americas region technical services at Cisco Systems.
Brad Wilson, president & CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC), and Christopher Franklin, EVP & COO of regulated operations with Aqua America, offered keynote addresses.