Region’s economy expected to stay strong, may not mirror nation’s trajectory

Business growth in Hamilton indicates strength and resiliency, chamber leader says.

Heading into 2023, those who study financial markets and closely follow the decisions of the Federal Reserve believed there was an economic tug-of-war taking place.

Would there be a recession or inflation in the economy?

But John Augustine, chief investment officer at Huntington Private Bank, said at the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce annual Groundhog Economic Outlook Breakfast that Fed Chairman Jerome Powell provided a third piece into the equation.

“What the Central Bank just put on the table this week, literally, a soft landing,” he said, adding that’s why the stock markets continued to rally after Powell’s Wednesday announcement of a quarter-point rate increase. “So this tug-of-war is still going to exist, we know all the inflation’s that’s been going on the last couple of years, but is it going to turn into a recession?”

With the potential of a soft landing ― a cyclical slowdown in economic growth that avoids a recession ― Augustine said, “We don’t think so.”

He said there is a “better propensity for interest rates to rise than fall if the Fed follows through what they said a couple days ago (on Wednesday).” In addition to the quarter-point rate increase, Powell said the economy’s disinflationary process has started as the pace of interest rate increases has cooled.

Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dan Bates said in spite of the economists’ forecasts, the region is in a unique situation where former models don’t apply.

“However, we can still look at historical relationships of how one thing impacts another,” he said. “We may or may not enter a recession, but even if we do, there are still many indicators that our economy could be resilient and even much stronger than was projected just a few months ago.”

While things are economically tight and funders are building in more protections for themselves, “projects driving growth are still moving forward.”

“I also believe there is a shift coming in the workforce and companies are pulling back on flexibility and looking for greater productivity from their workers,” Bates said. “The workers are going to lose some the power they have enjoyed as companies look for productivity and the ability to find newcomers in the workforce that are in tune with productivity expectations. As well as work-life balance.”

Hamilton has seen continual investment in the community, which is led by the $165 million Spooky Nook development that’s already brought into the city thousands of people that normally wouldn’t be here.

Many businesses have begun reinvesting and opening up and down the High/Main Street corridor due in large part to Spooky Nook’s investment, and more will be coming.

Pat Longo, president and CEO of Alloy Development Co., a marketplace where organizations, businesses, and communities find resources, said they “have been quite active here in Butler County.”

Alloy is the top SBA 504 loan lender in both Ohio and Kentucky, and in the past 12 months, there have been 11 projects that have totaled more than $23 million, which includes two Hamilton projects ― Spirits and More on Dixie Highway and Legacy Martial Arts Academy on Main Street.

Bates said he believes that locally, “We are going to outperform expectations and ride this uncertainty out with a very positive outcome, above the curve.”

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