Amid warm winter, Chamber/Bureau economic forecast luncheon spreads cheer | ParkRecord.com

Amid warm winter, Chamber/Bureau economic forecast luncheon spreads cheer

With the lack of snowfall threatening to dampen business in the skiing and lodging industries through the rest of the winter, members of the Park City Chamber/Bureau were ready for some good news.

They got it Thursday at the Chamber/Bureau’s Annual Economic Forecast Luncheon. Members gathered at the Park City Marriott to dine and hear keynote speaker Anirban Basu, economist and chairman and CEO of Sage Policy Group Inc., dish out a positive forecast for the local and national economies in 2015.

Basu told members that he expects the United States economy to grow 3.6 percent in 2015, which would be the largest growth since 2005 and the first time the country has cracked 3 percent since the recession. If that happens, Basu said, it would be a strong indicator that the country has fully recovered.

Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, said understanding national economic trends is important for businesses in a resort town.

"Our customers that we come into contact with every day are from other parts of the country and other parts of the world," he said. "What’s happening in their world and their economies and what’s happening with their incomes have great effect on how much they spend when they’re here."

Some of the best news Basu delivered was that strong consumer spending will likely drive the economic growth.

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"You don’t need an economist to come to Park City to tell you consumers are spending," he told the crowd, adding that malls and restaurants are more full than at any time since the recession.

For businesses that rely on people choosing to spend their discretionary income in Park City, that means there are good things to come.

"That’s what we’re all about," Malone said. "We’re selling products to people with their discretionary income. We’re not selling washing machines and things people must have. We’re selling fun — skiing and dining and lodging. They don’t have to spend the money on that. So if we’re finding out that those people are feeling good, it makes us feel good."

Not all the national trends are necessarily positive. While the economy is growing, the growth is being spread unequally, with the wealthy seeing big gains while the income of the majority of Americans remains stagnant, Basu said.

However, that may bode well for the tourism industry in Park City, as 44 percent of the town’s visitors make $200,000 or more — meaning they’re in the economic class that is flourishing.

Basu also shed light on the Utah economy, which he said is among the best in the nation. An increase in the production of oil and energy in the state has helped boost job-growth numbers at twice the national average, with unemployment down to 3.5 percent.

Malone said it was refreshing to hear such good news in the middle of a warm winter that has stifled some of the optimism business owners in town had going into it.

"It’s enjoyable to come together and get to hear something that you wouldn’t normally hear from somebody in town," he said. "We reach out and try to bring some talent to speak — there’s an entertainment factor that comes along with it, but an educational aspect, as well. It seems like the membership enjoys it, because they certainly gobble it up every time we put one together."