09/05/13 — Walden: Wayne good for retirees

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Walden: Wayne good for retirees

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 5, 2013 1:46 PM

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Economist Dr. Michael Walden makes a point during Thursday's economic outlook forum at the Goldsboro Country Club. Walden said that Wayne County has a "lot of good things" going for it.

Wayne County has a "lot of good things" going for it, renowned economist Dr. Michael Walden told a gathering at Thursday's economic outlook forum at the Goldsboro Country Club.

Manufacturing has "done fairly well," and agriculture is a key as well, he said.

"I don't need to say that Seymour Johnson (Air Force Base) is crucial," he said. "We certainly want to keep Seymour Johnson here."

Walden is a William Neal Reynolds professor and North Carolina Cooperative Extension economist in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics of North Carolina University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

During the Chamber of Commerce forum sponsored by the Wayne County Economic Development Commission, Walden examined the national and state economies before focusing in closer to home.

Walden said there are two things that the county can look ahead to "economically wise."

"We saw a slowdown of this trend during the recession because of the inability of people to sell their homes," he said. "But now that the home market is back you are going to start to see the movement of retirees accelerated.

"One of the things we saw prior to the recession was a trend for retirees, particularly in the North and Midwest to move once they retired out of those iceboxes."

North Carolina, even during the recession, has done a good job attracting those people, he said.

"I would argue to you that if you are able to attract retirees to Goldsboro... those retirees bring their pensions and Social Security, and they don't bring children to educate, that is expensive, that is economic development," Walden said.

"You might want to think about a campaign to advertise Goldsboro, 'Your next home,'" he said.

The second concerns the ongoing widening of the Panama Canal to handle large supercargo ships. That upgrade will allow ships to travel from the West Coast to the East Coast more economically, he said. North Carolina lacks the deep-water ports to handle the ships, he said. However, trucks that will transport the cargo will travel along Interstate 95.

"There are going to be warehouses and transferral points," he said. "There is going to be a need for places for those truckers to eat and stay.

"So this is perhaps something you can keep thinking about as whether, in terms of economic development, if you can take advantage of that."

Those two would be in addition to what the county already is doing, Walden said.

However, there are challenges still to be faced, including education and fiscal challenges, he said.

Walden said he wrote a book several years ago looking at North Carolina starting around 1975 and how the state had moved away from textiles and tobacco.

In writing the book, Walden said he discovered that the state, like the nation, had recessions and recoveries.

"But ours tend to be more volatile," he said. "Which is to say that we have deeper recessions, and actually we have had stronger recoveries."

Job growth in the state's metropolitan areas over the past three years has varied according to region, Walden said.

Charlotte has experienced the most at 10.1 percent, followed by Raleigh, 7.9. Goldsboro is at 1.9, he said.

"Now the immediate question you are asking is why is our unemployment rate so high?" he said. "Why is it still higher than the nation?"

There are two reasons, Walden said. One is the state's manufacturing market. Twice as much of the state's economy is based on manufacturing than in the nation, he said. But manufacturing is going through a transition using more machinery and fewer people, Walden said.

"The other reason though that we have a slightly higher unemployment rate is people continue to move here even during the recession," Walden said. "If you look at all 50 states, we have the highest number of what is called in immigrants -- these folks coming from other states, not from other countries.

Walden said he has adjusted the state's unemployment rate to take those two factors into account.

Rather than in the high 8-percent range, it would be in the high 6-percent range, he said.

"It would actually be below the national average," Walden said.