The 42nd Annual Economic Forecast Conference: We’ve Still Got Work to Do

Meredith Hickman / January 30, 2014

By, Erin Fowler

As the newest member of The Fearey Group’s Real Estate/Built Environment team, I had the privilege of attending the 42nd Annual Economic Forecast Conference hosted by the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County. What a treat.  The room was full of brilliant real estate professionals and incredible panelists that spoke insightfully about both the past and future of real estate in the Puget Sound region.  Here are a few insights from the speakers:

King County Executive Dow Constantine’s top three initiatives include: investing in our assets, supporting the supply chain (transportation was a big topic throughout the day), and investing in our people – schools, immigration

Ken Goldstein, U.S. Economy and Forecast Economist/The Conference Board: “2014 will be better than 2013 AND it will be better (marginally) than 2015 and 2016.”

Michael Dueker, Chief Economist at Russell Investments, believed that 2013 was a “year of validation” for what happened the previous year.  He linked it to airplane acceleration.  Stocks went up 30 percent and growth hovered at 2.0 percent.  He predicts the GDP to be at 4.8 percent.

Dick Conway, Economist & Founder at The Puget Sound Economic Forecaster, is the E.F. Hutton guy – everyone quiets to hear what he has to say.  His message –  the Puget Sound region is performing well, but we should be doing BETTER. And, like always,  Boeing has been the key to our economic recovery.

He also shared some interesting statistics about housing permits and housing prices in the Puget Sound Region:

Housing Permits

Average Home Price Increases

– In 2012, we saw a 51 percent increase (YOY)- In 2013, we saw a 2.4 percent increase

– In 2014, the projection is a 13.6 percent   increase

– In 2015, the projection is a 12.2 percent   increase

– 2012 – 3.5 percent- 2013 – 10.6 percent

– 2014 – 7.9 percent projected

– 2015 – 4.7 percent projected

Chris Mefford, President & Founder of Community Attributes, noted that real estate is about people and how they are changing.  We have more non-white and low income people in our region and we need to keep that in mind as we build it.

Dave Sabey, President of Sabey Corporation, said big permit hurdles and higher permit costs are not helping affordable housing, not to mention taxes.  In our region, the tax on a multi-million dollar project could be, well, over a million dollars.  And where is that all going?  Well, it is definitely not going towards education or transportation like we would hope.

Greg Johnson, President of Wright Runstad & Company touted the Spring District as a really big part of the region’s new economy.  A transportation-oriented, walkable space in Bellevue finally becomes the latest innovation among spaces the region MUST have.

There were several other educational and insightful speakers featured at the conference. A quick recap:

  • To rise to the top, we must compete and win in the areas of transportation, education and increased exports.
  • We can’t keep doing what we’re doing.  We have to focus and improve in the areas of healthcare, energy (solar and wind), and technology.
  • The $15/hour minimum wage proposal – no one really knows if it will help or hurt, but without a doubt, there will be ramifications. 
  • Transportation – let’s get with the program and continue to invest. 
  • Inflation and access to capital – enough said.
  • And again over and over and over…. Thank you BOEING!