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Bank economist foresees 3rd-quarter recovery
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FLOWERY BRANCH — An economist for Georgia’s largest bank told Hall County officials Thursday that he believes the nation’s economy will emerge from the recession in the third quarter of this year.

Gregory Miller, chief economist for SunTrust Banks, said his prediction is contingent upon federal action to get credit flowing through financial institutions.

He said the next step with funds from the Troubled Asset Recovery Program should be to acquire "toxic assets," the troubled real estate foreclosures that banks cannot easily shed.

His remarks came on the opening day of the Hall County Commission and Department Director Workshop, a two-day seminar for county commissioners and department heads at the Spout Springs Library. The agenda includes discussions on adapting the county’s budget under a lower revenue stream.

Miller said that property values in Georgia will not increase for at least another year. He also said sales taxes, which are a major source of revenue for the state and local governments, would be slow to recover.

"Hall County finances are driven by sales taxes, property taxes and some transfers," he said. "The state of Georgia resisted the recession in the early stages." He said that when state revenues began to fall in the middle of 2008, they fell sharply.

He predicted the current quarter would be the point where the recession would bottom out.

Miller said several indicators are in "prerecovery" mode, including housing.

"In the last two months, foreclosures are increasing at a slower rate," he said. "Georgia’s foreclosures are now ranked eighth best in the country in the right direction."

He said housing starts are at their lowest level in 50 years.

"Other than existing inventory, we don’t have houses for people in the next couple of years," Miller said. "We have housing inventory and that has been improving for four consecutive months and is now below 10 months inventory."