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Here are some of the other stories catching our attention.

Top Charlotte Execs Discuss Economy At Chamber Luncheon

Ben Bradford

Leaders of some of the region’s largest companies have high hopes for the coming year. At the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce’s annual Economic Outlook luncheon, CEOs of Bank of America and Duke Energy, among others, discussed the state of the economy, gas prices, health care, and regulation.

The lone government official on the dais, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond president Jeffrey Lacker, said he’s feeling “reasonably positive” about next year’s economic growth.

“The broad context to keep in mind is that we’ve had growth at just a modest pace since the recession,” Lacker said. “Over that period we’ve had little surges in growth; they’ve petered out, they haven’t been sustained. I think this time seems different.”

The panelists generally agreed the economy will continue to grow, with Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good offering a point of caution.

“Our industrial sales are still not at the level they were in 2007,” said Good. “And you can see indications of that here in the Carolinas when you look at the fact that our job creation in the Carolinas has been primarily in urban areas, not in the rural areas. So I still feel like there’s some opportunity for improvement.”

Health care costs, too, will continue their rise, projected Susan DeVore, the CEO of Charlotte-based health care consulting company Premier.

“With the aging of our population, with the lifestyles that we have, with the people entering the Medicare world and the baby boomers, the demand is going to be very significant,” she said.

DeVore estimates health care costs will grow one to two percent faster than the broader economy.

Perhaps the most focus went to the recent drop in oil prices. In general, again, the panelists felt it was an overall positive.

“What gas price reductions do is give the general populace more money to spend,” said Bank of American CEO Brian Moynihan. “It’s mid-level income down, so that means it’s real money to real people.”

But that drop, Jeff Lacker of the Richmond Fed pointed out, is a one-time boost. And the global effect of the lower prices, Moynihan said—to nations both producing and using oil—is an unknown no one on the panel could forecast.