Thomas Baird, a director of CentraLand Title Co., had the novel “A Tale of Two Cities” in mind Friday afternoon as he described the current economy.
“‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,'” Baird said. “I look back over the last few years (with COVID-19) and I can’t think of a better way to describe what we’ve been through. But we got through it.”
On Friday, Baird and Mark Dotzour — who for 18 years served as chief economist of the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University — spoke about the region’s economic outlook at the 2022 CentraLand Title Co. Economic Summit at the Temple.
Hundreds of people attended, including city, county and state officials.
“So far, we have reaped the rewards of a simply extraordinary period,” Dotzour said. “We are going to have the background of this extraordinary period moving forward here. If you think the stock market is really interesting, entertaining and volatile, just lace up your boots, gang, because it’s only just getting started here.
During his lecture, Dotzour referred to soaring fuel prices, rising wages, rising property prices and labor shortages – a scenario he had not anticipated.
“I didn’t know people wouldn’t be coming back to work,” he said. “There is a labor shortage everywhere.
However, Dotzour, who earned his doctorate from the University of Texas Department of Finance in 1987, pointed out how he now sees this trend every day, in every city and in every industry.
“I got here an hour and a half early and stopped at Shipley’s Donuts for a donut and a cup of coffee. But when I came out to get in, there was a sign that said, “I’m sorry, the lobby is closed because there’s no one here.” This is just one example.
Although Dotzour predicts a recession will hit the United States within the next two years, he does not expect the impact in central Texas to be as damaging.
“There have been times in my career when the United States has had a recession domestically, but Texas has chosen not to be part of it,” he told Telegram. “It’s very possible this time around. Texas may not come out unscathed, but the negative impact of a recession will be much weaker in Texas than it will be on the national average.
Dotzour pointed to large companies moving to Texas as a key factor in this projection. For example, Meta recently announced the construction of an $800 million data center in Temple.
“With all these big companies coming here, the economic damage is going to be felt in the cities they leave,” he said. “So we can continue to grow during our national recession.”
Randy Pittenger, president of the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce, appreciated Dotzour’s remarks.
“A big takeaway for me is that no matter what happens nationally, (Central Texas) is still a great place to live, work and invest,” he said. . “What we see in this region is the benefit of living in a community that grows together, recognizes the value of growth and invests together. We will continue to see people from across the country come here, as it is a desirable place to do business, live and raise families.
Although inflation has become a growing concern for many Central Texas residents, Pittenger said he’s confident the region will persevere.
“We will come out of this strong because we have the structural fundamentals, as Mark said, to weather the storm and weather the tough times,” he said. “We will continue to thrive. I think we’ve seen that historically in this area and we’re going to continue to see that moving forward. It’s not an easy road but (Central Texas) is where we all want to be…and everyone is trying to reach us.
Baird shared this position.
“I’ve been used to (hearing), ‘Everything is wonderful. Don’t worry about it,” he said. “What I heard today is that we have a rocky road ahead of us over the next few years… but it’s not all bleak. It may be a little cloudy for a while, but we just need to be aware and take precautions and do the things that are right for our business, for our community, and for our families.
Dotzour said he appreciated the opportunity to speak again in Temple.
“I retired from college, but I love doing this,” he said. “I truly feel a joy talking to men and women who are trying to make good decisions for their families and clients. That’s my comfort zone.”