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WEB EXCLUSIVE As local businesses continue to shut down for good, boards go up over windows and people are laid off from their jobs left and right, it begs the question of whether or not Raleigh will ever recover from the economic downfalls the novel coronavirus pandemic has brought onto the city. It certainly seems like there’s a chance things will never get better, but Marci McGregor, Managing Director and Senior Investment Strategist for Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, wants you to stay positive.
During Midtown Raleigh Alliance’s virtual event, “RECOVERY: The Economics of ReOpening”, held on September 23, McGregor shared data and trends that showed how Raleigh, and the nation, is already on the path to recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. McGregor answered three specific questions during her presentation: where we are in recovery nationally, what the market is telling us (is there a disconnect between the stock market and the real economy?) and what life on the other side of COVID will look like. McGregor calls that the “new frontier” and predicts we’ll get to that point in 2022.
McGregor says that Raleigh’s strengths—its work force and dynamic economy led by tech and healthcare—positions Raleigh well for the future. These strengths will be particularly beneficial in the movement of supply chains, a slow moving trend that was already in place but the pandemic accelerated, that are going to be more technologically driven and efficient. “Thinking about countries, globally, or regions—when they have educated workforces, they can operate smarter supply chains that benefit from [this pandemic],” McGregor said.
One of the biggest concerns of the coronavirus pandemic is the effect its had on local businesses. However, small businesses are already on their way to recovery, McGregor says. According to the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, small business confidence increased in August and is now above the historical 46-year average. Job openings have increased and there are plans to hire more workers, something that’s extremely positive in the economy moving forward. In April, 1 percent of small business owners had plans to create new jobs, whereas now that number has increased to 21 percent. “We’ve all experienced and witnessed the pain of small businesses in all of our communities,” says McGregor. “It’s an important step in recovery because small businesses are so important to the U.S. economy.”
While McGregor certainly realizes that the early innings of recovery and economic expansion can be bumpy, we are already back on the path of economic growth. Areas seeing strength include manufacturing and housing. There will be an increase of cybersecurity thanks to all of the activities that are now taking place online. McGregor predicts 2021 will be the year when consumer activity adds momentum to the recovering economy as well.
Ultimately, McGregor says that innovation and productivity are what will get us to the other side. Already, healthcare and science have made it possible for us to get tested for the virus, maintain working remotely and allow children to learn virtually. “It’s important to find the silver linings,” McGregor says. “The recession is behind us and we’re on the path to recovery.”
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