Though inflation is expected to be a concern as an overheated economy emerges from the pandemic, regional businesses that survived the Coronavirus-related economic downturn are poised to overcome such obstacles.
Economic experts speaking at the recent 33rd Annual Southern Delmarva Economic Forecast said moderate growth should be expected over the next year and business confidence will remain high.
Dr. Memo Diriker, Director BEACON at Salisbury University, and Dr. Dustin Chambers, Professor of Economics at SU’s Franklin P. Perdue School of Business, offered their perspectives on the current state of the economy, where the economy is likely to be headed the remainder of 2021 and forward to 2022.
“Inflation will be a concern, especially toward the end of this year and entering 2022,” said Diriker.
Said Chambers: “The businesses that survived the economic downturn caused by the pandemic are poised to weather this next storm well.”
Delayed from its traditional January date, the Economic Forecast was held at the Roland E. Powell Convention in Ocean City. The regional event sold out with more than 200 business and government leaders from Maryland, Virginia and Delaware in attendance.
The event was held according to Covid-19 precautions including social distancing, face masks, and food safety, according to Worcester County Health Department guidelines.
The largest panel of the day featured the Economic Development Directors from six Delmarva counties — Rich Morrison from Accomack County, Bill Pfaff from Sussex County, Susan Banks from Dorchester County, Danny Thompson from Somerset County, Melanie Pursel from Worcester County and Dave Ryan from Wicomico County.
These panelists shared insight regarding their jurisdiction’s unique challenges and opportunities amidst the Covid -19 crisis.
Pfaff noted that the eastern side of Sussex is nearly built out as construction has continued to surge.
“We processed more than 10,000 commercial and residential building permits the past year and with the addition (an Amazon distribution center in) Seaford, we expect western Sussex to now take off,” he said.
All the Maryland Economic Development Directors on the panel commented on the CARES relief dollars each were tasked to deploy to ease the financial burdens of local businesses.
“We processed these CARES checks in a matter of days to expedite needed dollars into the hands of our small businesses,” said Wicomico’s Ryan.
All the Economic Development Directors noted that the recovery is under way and as vaccination rates increase demand for businesses will grow.
Rural broadband and its impact for Delmarva was the topic of a panel featuring Delaware state Sen. Brian Pettyjohn; Robert Bridgham, Executive Director, Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority; Valerie Connelly, Vice President, Government Affairs and Public Relations for Choptank Electric Co–op, and Jason Clarke, Chief Information Officer for the State of Delaware. They all touched on capacity issues in implementing broadband service and the opportunities that broadband will provide to countless students while remote learning.
Tourism, Healthcare and Agriculture took center stage with Susan Jones, Executive Director, Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association; Steve Leonard, President/CEO, TidalHealth; and G. Andrew Getty, Assistant General Counsel, Perdue Farms.
Each provided updates on their specific industries — how the pandemic changed tourism, agriculture and healthcare business and trends. They all focused on a brighter future and acknowledged that many pandemic changes are likely to become permanent.