Harold’s Blog: Economic Outlook & Staff COVID Updates

Cary, NC — I hope everyone had a great holiday season and a Happy New Year.

Monday I met briefly with the town manager. We talked about the COVID spread among staff. We also talked about the pandemic in general and how vaccinations are helping Cary residents. Other topics included the Epic rezoning proposal for the mall site.

Take-Aways from the 2022 Economic Outlook

Wednesday Dr. Michael Walden from NC State presented the economic outlook for 2022. Here are some of the points from his presentation:

  • NC GDP is doing better than the national average
  • NC Sectors doing well in terms of %GDP:
    • Information 119%
    • Professional Services 114%
    • Administrative Services 114%
    • Finance 109%
    • Wholesale Trade 105%
    • Manufacturing 104%
    • Health Care 102%
    • Restaurants 102%
  • Raleigh-Cary has 100% of employment of the February 2020 number of jobs
  • Labor participation rate in NC is well below national rate
  • Reasons why fewer people have been looking for work:
    • Continue to worry about COVID
    • Uncertainty about school schedules
    • Reduced availability of childcare
    • Cash stimulus checks, child payments, additional jobless benefits, expanded food stamps, expanded “Obamacare”
    • More retirements
  • Many workers using time during pandemic to improve their skills
  • Business response to labor supply issues:
    • Attract labor with higher pay and/or benefits
    • Substitute technology and automation for workers
    • Improve worker productivity
  • Labor Availability
    • Should improve as supplemental unemployment payment ends
    • Up-skill of workers will present on-going issues for some industries
    • Long-term solutions will take time
  • Raleigh-Cary Market
    • Strong job market
    • Ranked 17th among 368 metros in building permits
    • 75% increase in new commercial space over 2020
    • Profile rising as one of the growth centers of the country
  • Federal assistance is $5.5 trillion or 25% of GDP, $80 billion to NC
  • Assistance errored on size of too much help; wanted to prevent collapse of economy which would have been catastrophic
  • Federal Reserve rate near 0; holdings at $8 trillion
  • Money supply up 85% since beginning of pandemic
  • Inflation rising with 6% change
  • View #1 of inflation:
    • Economy is flush with cash and pent-up demand
    • Higher inflation rate (4% to 5%) through 2022
    • Higher inflation is the price of the enormous federal help
  • View #2 of inflation:
    • Faster inflation is related to disruption in the production of products and services as the economy recovers from the pandemic
    • The disruptions are temporary
  • Federal Reserve Challenge: reduce stimulus by increasing interest rates and decreasing money growth without hindering economic growth
  • We faced the same situation in the late 1070s
  • Forecasts have NC real GDP with strong growth but growing less with new COVID variants
  • Forecasts have NC unemployment rate moving to less than 4% this year but slightly above 4% with variants
  • The economy after the pandemic:
    • More labor market disruption
    • Shift from production to delivery and services
    • More jobs in technology
    • Post high school training apprenticeships, on-the-job training, collaborations
  • Education after pandemic will have some level of distance learning. It is here to stay at all levels.
  • High Speed Internet is now a necessity. We should see continued expansion of cable provision. Our country could reach full internet by 2030.
  • Tele-working: 8% pre-virus, 60% at pandemic peak, 20% – 30% long term
  • We will see more drone deliveries of products
  • Reconsideration of residential location:
    • Proximity to work, schools, shopping is no longer needed
    • Internet from the “sky” could impact location
  • NC implications:
    • NC had strong economy in 2021
    • Record job growth with bigger gain in production than nation: $10 billion of announced investments
    • Continued or accelerated growth; Some forecasts have 13 million rather than 12 million
    • Considered a safe state
    • Look for suburbs to have fastest growth
    • Potential game changer – universally available high-speed internet

We are so thankful to have Dr. Walden’s economic outlook every year. Based on my experience, he has been very accurate.

Town Manager Report

The town manager’s report for this week included:

Sean’s Message

Like I’ve heard from several of you, I’m glad that 2021 is in our rearview mirror and am looking forward to all of the good things we’ll make happen in 2022 – together. While, in many ways, this year is beginning much as the last two, we have all grown and learned so much, and our organization has never been stronger.
The most important event of 2022 will be our municipal elections, and staff has been busy monitoring the developments in court and plan to update you on relevant outcomes next week.
As a reminder, the only January Council meeting is scheduled for next Thursday, Jan. 13. At this point the agenda appears to be relatively light.
Until we all get together again, stay safe and reach out if you need anything.
Sean

Public Safety Update

89% of town employees are vaccinated. Mandatory testing for the remaining will occur weekly. Currently there are 62 active cases of COVID-19 among town staff bringing the total since the beginning of the pandemic to 262. 75% of Cary residents over the age of 5 have been vaccinated.

DEI Task Force Recruitment

The application period for the new Human Relations, Inclusion & Diversity Task Force is open through January 14. Cary citizens that have a passion and interest in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), experience being a change agent or would like to give back to the community are encouraged to apply.

Task force appointments will be made by Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and terms will begin in April with task force orientation scheduled to occur in March 2022.

Development Pulse Report

The December 2021 Development Pulse Report is now available.

Highlights:

  • Protolabs, 3615 Pleasant Grove Church Road: The building permit was approved to construct the shell building for a new 120,000 sq ft manufacturing and warehouse facility. The building permit to upfit the building for Protolabs is currently under review.
  • Cary Towne Center Partial Demolition Permit, 1105 Walnut Street: The building permit was approved to the demolish the former Cary Towne Center with the exception of the former Belk building.
  • Annie Jones Restroom Facility, 1414 Tarbert Drive: The building permit was approved to construct a new restroom building to replace the former building near the baseball field at Annie Jones Park.
  • Fenton Tenant Permits –The following building permits were approved for new tenants within the Fenton Development: Athleta, AltardState Arula, Bailey’s Fine Jewelry, Dram & Draught, Lunchbox Wax, M Sushi, Nike Live, Pottery Barn, Southern Tide, and four future tenant spaces. Restaurants receiving Certificates of Occupancy (COs) in December:
    • Fangs Kitchen, 677 Mills Park Road: New Chinese restaurant in the Greystone Shopping Center.
    • Hibachi 88, 675 Mills Park Road: New Hibachi and Japanese restaurant in the Greystone Shopping Center.

First Walk 2022

On January 1, members of the Cary Teen Council and the Greenway Committee held the annual First Walk to start the year off on the right (or left) foot.

More than 120 citizens joined the early morning trek along the White Oak Creek greenway starting at Davis Drive Park. Thanks to the warm temperatures, participants enjoyed a nice walk with family and friends to kick off 2022.

Storm Event Impacts

Crews responded quickly to remedy storm-related impacts along greenways following a heavy rainstorm on January 3. Saturated soil conditions and heavy winds caused a large oak tree to fall onto the Crabtree Creek Greenway.

In addition, a sewer line was damaged along the Black Creek Greenway due to high water levels. Staff and contractors quickly completed repairs and removed fallen trees and debris.

The significant rainfall from the storm positively impacted Jordan Lake after several weeks of declining lake levels. The lake is now more than a foot above its normal pool elevation.

Using Native Plants Just Got Easier

Cary continues to provide information and programs to help citizens plant native species. A new list of trees and plants that do well in this area, along with tips on where the plants prefer to grow, is now available on the Tree Planting Projects webpage as a resource guide.

Citizens will also find a list of invasive species to avoid or remove from their yards. Additionally, to jumpstart the upcoming tree planting season, the spring My Tree, Our Tree webpage describes the selected native trees Cary is giving away in conjunction with Cary’s Arbor Day celebration at Bond Park.

While the registration period for My Tree, Our Tree doesn’t begin until early February, now’s the time for citizens to investigate which native tree best suits their landscape, prepare a myCary account to enable registration for a tree, and sign up to attend a virtual tree planting tips webinar.

Upcoming Meetings

Hybrid Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory Board

Monday, Jan. 10
5:15 PM

Hybrid Environmental Advisory Board
Tuesday, Jan. 11
6:00 PM

Historic Preservation Commission
Wednesday, Jan. 12
6:30 PM

Council Meeting
Thursday, Jan. 13
6:30 PM

Mayor’s Mailbox

Emails from citizens included:

  • Complaints about not having a mask mandate. Some of the quotes include “YOU make me feel unwelcome” and “You are not helping with my depression”
  • Requests to not move to “draconian” mask mandate
  • Kudos for changes in downtown
  • A complaint about a pothole on Maynard causing car damage (NCDOT maintained road; we put him in touch with NCDOT claims person; fixed NCDOT’s pothole)
  • Complaints about The Terraces proposed rezoning (not scheduled, put them in touch with staff)
  • Kudos to police and fire for finding a lost child in the Christmas parade
  • A request to update town ordinances to prevent someone from having a light that shines into someone else’s house
  • A complaint about not receiving funding for a project for Partners For Environmentally Justice
  • Kudos for downtown holiday decorations (staff has plans to double them next year)

Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a meeting to do performance reviews of council staff (attorney and clerk), and the first regularly scheduled council meeting of the year.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, January 16th. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communication with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to augustanat@mindspring.com.


From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Images from Town of Cary.

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1 reply
  1. Mark Neill
    Mark Neill says:


    Reasons why fewer people have been looking for work:
    * Cash stimulus checks, child payments, additional jobless benefits, expanded food stamps, expanded “Obamacare”
    Labor Availability
    * Should improve as supplemental unemployment payment ends

    Why do we still nod and accept responses like this, when these extended unemployment benefits ended 4 months ago? And no one is staying home living large on the $600 per child they’re getting by way of the child tax credit (which ended in December).

    The rest of this is all nice, but only affects those people that aren’t making enough money to fall upward out of the low-end of wages. The number of people that these things keep out of the job market is minimal.

    The fact of the matter is, we have a HUGE service industry economy, driven by convenience and the idea that everyone has to work to be worthy of living in society. What’s happened is that people are starting to not accept that thesis statement any more, and are choosing to improve their quality of life by way of spending more time with family, at the cost of less income.

    I’m sure that over the next several years, we are going to see a contraction of the service industry, particularly retail. There don’t need to be 18 mattress stores in a 1 mile radios, or a dozen drug stores, or 15 groceries (not including the specialty grocery stores). The labor pool simply won’t support it with the ongoing shrinkage we’re seeing.

    And I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. The Workforce taking back their choice to work, or not, and spending more time at home, means better quality of life for those people that want it.

    Reply

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