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5 takeaways from local economic forecast event
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The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce holds their annual economic and political forecast Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at the Lanier Technical College Ramsey Conference Center. - photo by Scott Rogers

From housing prices rising in 2023 to employers scrambling for workers, area industry leaders gave their take on the economic landscape in Hall County Tuesday morning.

Here’s a few takeaways from a panel discussion at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Small Business Economic & Political Forecast Jan. 10 at Lanier Technical College:

Industrial growth not going away any time soon

Expect a decade of “strong industrial growth” in Hall up into Habersham County, said Frank Norton Jr., CEO and chairman of The Norton Agency.

“We are projecting a strong encampment” of industrial development on interstates 985 and 85 and Ga. 365. “We’re seeing 1 million-square-foot boxes and … they’re full.”

A proposed development featuring more than 1.2 million square feet of industrial space off Ga. 365 in northeastern Hall County got initial approval Jan. 3 from the Hall County Planning Commission. The board’s recommendation now goes to the Hall County Board of Commissioners, which is set to take final action after a Feb. 9 public hearing.

The industrial growth “will strongly affect us, our labor and the emergence of the (Northeast Georgia) Inland Port,” Norton said.

The truck terminal could be “fully operational” by late-2024 or early-2025, Tim Evans, the chamber’s vice president of economic development, has said.

Housing prices projected to be back on the rise

Despite a fall in median housing prices since June 2022, when they had reached a peak, “we are going to … see prices increase in our area and in metro Atlanta because of huge demand,” Norton said.

Publications have cited Atlanta as one of the hottest housing markets in the U.S. “because of affordability as compared to other (areas) and our job market,” he said.

Meanwhile, “we’re going to have a severe shortage of apartments over the next 18 months,” Norton said. “You’re going to see more apartment rezonings, more apartment announcements and starts. They’re lagging (because of) the employment base that we continue to see grow.”

Meanwhile, “it’s very sad when a starter home is $290,000,” Norton said. “That’s a terrible indictment on our society when the American dream could very well be a rental home rather than a purchase.”

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Northeast Georgia Health System President and CEO Carol Burrell speaks during the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce holds their annual economic and political forecast Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at the Lanier Technical College Ramsey Conference Center. - photo by Scott Rogers
More workers are wanting stay-at-home jobs

Maintaining a strong workforce “is a challenge,” said Carol Burrell, president and CEO, Northeast Georgia Health System.

The hospital has seen that firsthand in recruiting workers.

“They do not want to come into the office,” Burrell said. “They want to work from home. If you even require them to come in once a week, they’ve got another job that says, ‘No, you don’t have to come in at all.’”

It’s not just a “current challenge,” she said.

“With all the growth we’re having and the community growing, we’re trying to get ahead and meet those needs,” Burrell said. “We’re looking for creative partnerships. I’m pleased to say we have a strong partnership with (University of North Georgia) and Lanier Tech.”

Those ties include an “accelerated program to get into nursing, and thank goodness there are people who want to get into nursing,” she said.

Federal rule change to affect retirement plans

In big news for employers and workers, the newly passed federal Secure 2.0 Act of 2022 requires automatic enrollment in all new 401(k) and 403(b) retirement plans, Ron Bracewell of BatesCarter certified public accountants said.

The new rule becomes effective Jan. 1, 2025.

“Right now, all of our plans are set up where an employee opts in,” Bracewell said. “The government wants to change that. You have to opt out of the plan. Furthermore, there will be required minimum contributions by each participant. It starts at 3% and goes up to 10%.

“So, the government is serious about individual employees participating in retirement plans.”

Big construction firm saw ‘flat revenues’ 

Carroll Daniel Construction sees itself as “still emerging from the pandemic era,” said the company’s president and CEO, Brian Daniel.

But the Gainesville-based company’s finances are on an upswing.

“Our revenues as a company have been basically flat for 2020, ‘21 and ‘22,” he said. “We expect next year we’ll have about a 50% increase. Our backlog is as strong as it’s ever been. We continue to hire and add people.”

“That being said,” Daniel said, “I live in a lagging indicator business. I’m probably the last guy to ask to be on a panel for an economic forecast because I’m the last to know.”

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Carroll Daniel Construction President and CEO Brian Daniel, left, and Ron Bracewell of Bates Carter certified public accountants speak during the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce holds their annual economic and political forecast Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at the Lanier Technical College Ramsey Conference Center. - photo by Scott Rogers