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Will recession hit Gainesville in 2020? This is what local experts say
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Downtown Gainesville is photographed from a plane on Thursday, June 27, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

Ten years removed from the Great Recession, another economic downturn may be in the making for the U.S., but Hall County’s growth may help insulate it from the hardest impacts.

Nearly three-fourths of U.S. business economists expect a recession in the U.S. by the end of 2021.

Noted Georgia economist Jeff Humphreys, director of the Simon S. Selig Jr. Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, has mixed thoughts on the subject.

He believes predicting out to 2021 is “a little bit of a stretch” and that “the odds are about even that the economic expansion that began in the second half of 2009 will continue through the end of 2020.”

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Jeff Humphreys
“The main risk to growth is the trade war,” Humphreys said in an interview last week. “Even without a recession, the economic expansion is going to slow dramatically … and any meaningful escalation of the trade war will be fatal to this expansion.”

Georgia and Hall County could be particularly vulnerable because of heavy international business ties, he said.

Even so, “Gainesville-Hall County is kind of an outlier, in terms of the really strong growth that it has had,” Humphreys said.

The area has “a lot of really big, impressive projects in the economic development pipeline,” he said. “On the one hand, (Hall) is going to get a strong headwind from an escalation of the trade war. On the other hand, (the county) has a very strong tailwind from the economic development projects it has landed over the last five years — many of which are still building out.”

Humphreys doesn’t see a delay, for example, in the Georgia Ports Authority’s development of the Northeast Georgia Inland Port off Ga. 365 and White Sulphur Road in northeast Hall.

Construction could begin later this year on the regional cargo terminal, which is projected to open in 2021.

If a recession does happen, it shouldn’t be “very long,” Humphreys said.

“It’s not going to be a repeat of the Great Recession. If you look at the overall economy, there’s no reason we should be having a recession. This is very much a policy-shock recession.”

Stocks around the world have yo-yoed this month, with investors trying to predict whether President Donald Trump’s trade war and slowing economies around the world will drag the United States into a recession. 

Don’t expect the volatility to go away anytime soon, analysts say.

Bob Willis of Willis Investment Counsel

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Bob Willis
 in Gainesville noted that the concerns are a reversal of what was happening in the first two years of Trump’s presidency, when “animal spirits” were released — or “that notion about risk-taking, where businesses and CEOs, CFOs and investors felt emboldened with confidence.”

“They were more confident we were going to have less regulation and less taxes, and there was this pent-up demand, perhaps, from the prior eight years.”

Now, it seems, “we’re undoing the confidence building in the first two years,” Willis said. “It’s being reduced by this ongoing stalemate, standoff, combative tone with the trade war, and that could be the scale tipper that pushes us into recession.”

Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said of an economic downturn, “My crystal ball is no better than anyone else’s. We all know the economy runs in cycles and we’ve had a long, long recovery from the last recession.”

But, in Hall County, “we’re focused on having a diversified economy, so that when we do have periods of slow or no growth, we have enough variety in the employment and employers in the community that it helps us weather through the worst of down times” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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