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Experts predict Triangle will lead way out of recession

Economists said the region has the right mix of industries to recover from the economic downturn more quickly than other areas.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — When the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce hosted an economic forecast discussion Wednesday morning, the predictions were largely positive.

William K. Atkinson II, chairman of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and president and chief executive of WakeMed, predicted the Triangle would be one of the first areas in the state and nation to recover from the recession.

"I think the Triangle economy has an edge over many parts of the world," he said. "It has the strength of great education, community colleges and a young, bright population that is growing in this market."

The event, held at the Progress Energy Center, featured John Silvia, chief economist with Wachovia Bank, and Matthew Martin, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Silvia cited the higher education and health care industries as engines for the local economy as the population continues to grow.

"Over time, they will spend more money on health care, more money on education, and that will benefit this region," Silvia said.

Population growth has slowed, but is still stronger in North Carolina than most other parts of the country.

Atkinson acknowledged the tough economic times, but his forecast was upbeat.

"2008 was tough, especially at the end of the year," he said. "Everyone's ready to dig in and find positive solutions and turn it around fairly quickly."

The economists at Wednesday's forum and two others at a Monday event on the state and national economies all said the turnaround would be gradual, not quick.

Martin Regalia, chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said Monday that economic improvement could take most of the year and predicted that job losses would continue to mount into 2010.

Manpower President Jeff Stocks said he's prepared to wait out the downturn.

"We have to be patient," Stocks said. "The key word will be confidence. We already see that confidence was stronger the beginning of this year versus the end of last year."


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