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Report: Augusta economic outlook good in 2011

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UGA's economic forecast for Augusta is looking good, which is good news for business. (January 14, 2011 / WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 6 O'Clock / Friday, January 14, 2010

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It's been a rough year for a lot of local businesses, but tonight there's some good news to look forward to in 2011. Experts with UGA's Terry College of business released their economic forecast today and say things are looking up for the new year.

Their economic outlook for Augusta is meant to act as a sort of a road map for local business owners. Terry College Dear Robert Sumichrast and Mark Vitner, Senior Economist with Wells Fargo each spoke at the Augusta Economic Outlook event today. Dean Sumichrast explains, "The Terry College has a part of it called the Selig Center for Economic Growth. And the role of the Selig center is to study economic trends and to make forecasts to help the citizens of Georgia and businesses of Georgia take best advantage of the economic conditions around us. "

Scott Clark is President and COO of RW Allen construction in Augusta. Day to day, his business is to build, but this year one of his goals is to build business. He says he attended the Terry economic meeting to compare his own expectations with the experts'. "We're trying to understand where the market's going to be in the next twelve months to two years."

And while none of the 250 business leaders in attendance knows exactly what the future holds, today they got a pretty good forecast from Dean Sumichrast. "We'll start seeing more employment growth this year. We're expecting to see more sectors hiring. We've reached a real turning point in the economy where last year growth was dependent on government stimulus and on inventory building. This year we're going to see GDP growth from consumers, the private sector."

Clark says building with the private sector is exactly what the construction industry is looking forward to. "There is a light at the end of the tunnel which is exciting...the best case scenario over next couple years for our industry as a whole is the private sector." Clark says RW Allen has been fortunate during the last few years as they have not had to downsize. He says their biggest Augusta projects are the Salvation Army Kroc Center and the Tee Center, both started in 2010. Still, he says, more growth is always a challenge to embrace.

Sumichrast says it's just the right time to take advantage of low interest rates and the availability of skilled workers who need jobs. "If you wait until there's a big obvious sign of economic growth, you're going to miss some of these opportunities. So my message to not only small business but also to large businesses and consumers: this is a good time to take some calculated risk."

Terry College experts say the economy is looking brighter for the state of Georgia, too. They predict 2011 will be the first time in seven years the state's GDP growth matches up with the nation's, expecting slightly less than 3% growth. Sumichrast says he also believes four to one that this year's economic up-tick will be here to stay.

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