On April 12th, over 250 guests joined the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and Fidelity Bank at the DoubleTree in Leominster to get an idea of what the future holds for the economy under the current administration. This is the 6th year that the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and Fidelity Bank have partnered on this event. This year additional support came from the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. J.D. Foster, Vice President, Economic Policy Division and Chief Economist of the US Chamber of Commerce, provided keynote remarks with his presentation: What a Trump Economy Means for Us. Jeff Fuhrer, Executive Vice President and Senior Policy Advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston also spoke at the Economic Forecast Breakfast, presenting on the state of the economy and its outlook specifically for Massachusetts.
The breakfast sponsor, Fidelity Bank, presented on two economic outlook surveys they conducted of local business leaders and consumers from across North Central Massachusetts. “Getting the insights of these top economists, as well as our local consumer and business population, provides real value to the decision makers in our region,” said Ed Manzi Jr., chairman and CEO of Fidelity Bank. “In support of our LifeDesign promise, we’ve sponsored this event for the past six years, and once again it’s very gratifying to have partnered with three local chambers to support the business community in Central Massachusetts.”
“The surveys and presentations by our speakers is really a great way for our region to get a better understanding about what direction our economy is heading,” said Roy Nascimento, President and CEO of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce. “The presentations, combined with the surveys allow for a comprehensive view into conditions that could impact both consumers and businesses”
The economic outlook survey for both consumers and business leaders pointed to the political climate playing a significant role in the economy, but the two groups differed on President Donald Trump’s impact on the economy. On President Trump’s impact on the economy, 53% of consumers felt it would be negative, while 58% of business leaders feel that the president will have a positive impact on the economy.
Consumers overall did not have overwhelmingly positive feelings about a rising economy, with 76% of respondents indicating that the economy would be the same or only somewhat better a year from now.
Although the survey revealed that consumers believe that the high cost of living will be a threat to economic growth, only 22% of consumers believe that in 2017 they will be spending less money, while 44% believe they will not make any change to their spending habits.
The availability of skilled labor in the region was a major concern for business leaders. Workforce issues were the top challenge that businesses expect to face in the next two years, and was high among the greatest threats to economic growth for respondents.
“You can see from the survey that consumers have leveled off on Trump’s impact to the economy,” said Chris McCarthy, President and COO of Fidelity Bank. “In comparison business leaders have a more positive outlook on the upcoming year.”
Half of business leaders surveyed did indicate they would be increasing capital investments in their business in the next year. Investment priorities for business in 2017 include equipment, new hires, training, and expansion.
Complete results of the economic outlook survey are available online at wwww.NorthCentralMass.com/Research.