Forecasting the future after a tough year

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Print this page Robert C. Powell III, Editor

It has been a tough year for Virginia’s economy, and the trouble isn’t over yet. That’s the overall assessment of local economists in trying to predict conditions in 2010.

As always, the future looks different depending on where you are and what you do. Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, for example, have fared better than many regions during the recession, in part because of federal spending. They also are likely to recover more quickly. The story is different in Roanoke, Richmond and Southern Virginia, which have taken their lumps during the downturn. In our cover story, Robert Burke reviews the prospects for each region.

Potential trouble also is still brewing in the banking industry, although there are signs that financial institutions are healthier than they were. Doug Childers reports that banks are being allowed to repay money invested by the federal government under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). But banks now face sweeping financial reforms proposed by the Obama administration and a possible wave of defaults on commercial real estate loans if the recession lingers.

Bank CEOs may wish they could trade places with Kenneth Feld, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  The recession isn’t keeping people away from the circus. In fact, attendance is up as people enjoy a diversion from all the bad news.  Writer Joan Tupponce reveals that Feld juggles an expanding portfolio of live-performance productions, including ice shows and Monster truck extravaganzas.

No family business or publicly traded company can survive long without a capable chief financial officer. Virginia Business presented the fourth annual Virginia CFO Awards to five executives in July 1. Elizabeth Cooper and Donna C. Gregory profile the winners.

Another winner — at least in commercial real estate — is Alexandria.  M.J. McAteer reveals that, while other cities suffer, Alexandria’s proximity to the nation’s capital and National Harbor continues to draw new offices and tourists.

Finally, two stories in this issue look at retirement planning and the effects of an influx of retirees on a Virginia community. I got out of the office to look at the changing economy of the Northern Neck where an influx of affluent retirees has pushed housing prices out of reach for many teachers and nurses. Meanwhile, Chip Jones reports that because of job losses and depleted retirement accounts, baby boomers are getting used to the idea of working past the traditional retirement age of 65.

If the economy doesn’t rebound soon, the new retirement age may become 90.

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