CELEBRATES 45TH ANNIVERSARY WITH MEMBERS
HARFORD CHAMBER HOSTS VIRTUAL ECONOMIC OUTLOOK
On March 31st, the Harford County Chamber of Commerce virtually hosted their annual Economic Outlook event. Sponsored by APGFCU, the afternoon featured speakers Dr. Daraius Irani, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships & Applied Research at Towson University; Dr. David Bishai, Health Officer for Harford County; Rick Fletcher, Executive Vice President at The Kelly Group; and Len Parrish, Director of the Harford County Office of Community & Economic Development.
Dr. Bishai began by stating that, despite the current fourth wave of the COVID-19 virus in Maryland, there is hope on the horizon for economic recovery. Throughout March, total time spent away from the home decreased by 9.5% and total spending increased by 22.1% in Harford County compared to January 2020. (Track the Recovery, 2020)
According to recent data, the leisure and hospitality industry has suffered the most because of the pandemic, Dr. Bishai continued. Reduced spending, primarily on services that require in-person interaction, has impacted low-wage workers. Businesses in the most affluent areas in the country lost more than half of their revenue, while less affluent lost a third. Data has demonstrated that individuals leave the home and stimulate the economy based on their own fear of the virus, rather than government mandates. In closing, Dr. Bishai emphasized that investing in the reform of public health will increase consumer confidence and spending.
In regards to the stock market and investment, Rick Fletcher advised individuals to “not allow fear, greed, and hope to ruin a good portfolio,” and stay the course with their investments. Anyone who is looking to begin investing is encouraged to contact the Kelly Group, which does not have a minimum investment level.
Dr. Irani echoed that as more individuals are vaccinated, the safer households will begin to feel and the more they will travel, dine out, and stimulate the economy in other ways. In the past few months, consumption has increased but is still below pre-pandemic levels. Gross private domestic investment has grown significantly, a positive indicator for future production. There has been a decline in government spending, but at a decreasing rate, Dr. Irani continued. Imports continue to recover at a faster rate than exports.
Unemployment continues to decrease, but this is skewed by the fact that the labor force participation rate has decreased across most industries. This is especially true among women who became primary caregivers for children as schools moved to a virtual format. Job openings no longer outnumber individuals looking for work. National unemployment and underemployment have been steadily improving, but are yet to fully recover. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020)
Dr. Irani cited a 14-year high in construction of new homes both nationally and on a state level in December 2020 and a boom in real estate activity. Food service businesses continue to suffer, while grocery store sales have been above pre-pandemic rates since April 2020. Manufacturing in the U.S. is in recovery as new supply chain opportunities emerge. (Institute of Supply Management) Federal interest rates are back near zero, and expected to remain there. Long-term bond rates are beginning to increase. (FRED, U.S. Census Bureau, 2020)
On a state level, Gross State Product bounced back in the third quarter, as outdoor dining and activities were allowed. (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2020) Maryland jobs continue to slowly recover, and initial unemployment claims have fallen but remain above normal. (Maryland Department of Labor, 2020) Government and healthcare remain the main sources of employment, respectively. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020) In closing, Dr. Irani predicted that jobs will recover more quickly than previous forecasts, but GSP will take longer to fully recover.
Finally, Len Parrish echoed a positive outlook with his county-level update. The Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development works to strengthen opportunities for businesses growth and community stability, focusing on jobs, transportation, and housing. He praised the way our business community has come together to support our emergency services organizations and first responders, and the way Harford residents have supported local businesses.
In the wake of the pandemic, The Office of Community and Economic Development took on the role of distributing CARES act funding to our local businesses. To date, they have awarded more than 23 million dollars in grant funding to small businesses, working farms, restaurants, hotels, non-profits, and childcare facilities. They are exploring new ways to support local businesses, including telework and online sales. Their goal is to create a diverse economy that brings living wage jobs to Harford County across many sectors. The defense community, healthcare industry, and manufacturing and distribution are strong forces in our local economy.
Commemorative Magazine Unveiled at Cheers to 45 Years Event
Harford Chamber members gathered on Thursday, April 1st, to celebrate 45 years of business advocacy, connections, and education. The online Cheers to 45 Years event took place on the anniversary of the Chamber’s incorporation in 1976.
Harford Chamber President & CEO Angela Rose welcomed guests, including dignitaries, members of the Board of Directors, and the local business community. Lee Tayson, Board Chair and Liberty Mutual Insurance Agent, shared fond memories of his participation in Chamber events and committees over the years.
The Chamber team presented their commemorative anniversary magazine, Community and Commerce, which celebrates the strong business community that the Chamber is proud to serve and represent. The publication tells the story of the Chamber’s beginnings and growth through the decades, and features narratives from cornerstone Harford County organizations and businesses. View Community and Commerce here!
Brigitte Peters of the Maryland Department of Commerce presented a Secretary’s Citation to the Chamber on behalf of the State of Maryland. The citation recognizes the Chamber’s 45 years of dedication to helping Maryland’s businesses grow and succeed, and advocacy efforts in strengthening the local economy.
The event concluded with 1976-themed trivia presented by Harford Chamber Vice President Heather Murphy, and a raising of glasses in honor of the incredible organizations and businesses that make up the Chamber.