Viewpoint-February

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Viewpoint-February 2014

SBJ-Ernie Colburn-CEO 

Well, we have one month of the new year under our belt. Coming out of mid-January other than the COLD weather was our 26th Annual Economic Forecast.

Included in that event was the report provided by BEACON for 4th Quarter 2013 and Outlook for Q-1 2014. Noting we’re still on the outer edge of the recession since the Eastern Shore historically is 12 to 18 months behind the rest of the country and Maryland in recovery. We’re on the “cusp” of recovery-slow but moving forward.

What we’re experiencing here on the Lower Eastern Shore is recovery without a growth in hiring base. Not good. We need to grow our employment base. At the same time, wages have remained “flat” to “no change”. Spendable income is continuing to be tough to come by.

Retail is beginning to show “slow growth” as was outlined by a panelist at the Forecast last month. Yet, we had the news of J.C. Penney closing its store at the Centre at Salisbury. This will be a huge square footage hole to fill. Possibly that square footage would be sub-divided for two or three stores. Finding another “big box” store to will that foot print might be tough right now considering our current economic environment.

The Maryland General Assembly is in full “thrust” of its session. We’re going to see movement on increasing the minimum wage which here on the Lower Eastern Shore would NOT be a good thing for our small businesses that are just holding on-post recession. With this being an election year and the June 24th primary so close to the end (mid-April) of the session, I don’t believe we’ll see any major tax increases. That being said-look out for next year!  With Maryland projecting a nearly half-billion dollars in red ink by the end of the fiscal year in June…someone has be pay to make up that shortfall and it will probably be the taxpayer-again.

Our Agriculture community had good representation at the Economic Forecast as well as interesting comments from MD Ag Sec. Buddy Hance on the Phosphorous Management Tool. Our Ag community has ALWAYS advocated for a quality clean bay and responsible farming technics near the bay and its tributaries. All the farming community asks is show us the economic impact with a study as well as documented scientific data to back the demands this bill would impose on farmers.

So in summary, our economic base would be classified as “ steady to moving up”.

We’re all going through a period of adjustment or as County Executive Rick Pollitt so aptly put it, we’re in a “new normal”.

Your Chamber is out there on the front lines fighting every day for our small businesses. We watch and work closely with City and County governments. We continue to promote and grow our membership every month- as the saying goes “there’s strength in numbers” and it’s important that we have a strong voice in the community and that assures us that we’re being heard loud and clear.

In closing, I had a member say to me  “ I’m not really getting anything out of being a member of the Chamber”. My immediate question to this member was “what have you given back to the Chamber”? In other words, have you participated in a ribbon cutting; business-after-hours event; a lunch & learn seminar; volunteered to serve on the Membership, Advocacy, Community Outreach, or Business & Economic Development Divisions? As I say at every Chamber 101-New Member Orientation…” You need to meet me half-way….the Chamber can’t do it all for you-you need to make a contribution-a commitment to get involved and make a difference in the community.” We all can “armchair quarterback”. We all also can stand up and doing something positive and make a difference. I welcome your thoughts and comments…go to www.salisburyarea.com and express your opiniion on “The Chamber Voice” tab of our website.

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