Chamber luncheon highlights 2020 business outlook for Shelby County

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

PELHAM – Business leaders across various sectors in Shelby County made their way to the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 29, as the Shelby County Chamber hosted the Fifth Annual “Shelby County Business Outlook Conference.”

The Business Outlook Conference also included a panel presentation featuring five business leaders sharing their outlook on what 2020 will look like in their respective sectors.

Panelists included Mechelle Wilder of ARC Realty, Tom McLeod of McLeod Software, Brian Massey of St. Vincent’s Health System, Will Norwood of Valley National Bank and Josh Vickery of Specification Rubber Products. The panel presentation was moderated by Dr. Stephen Craft, Dean of the Stephens College of Business at the University of Montevallo.

Following the panel presentation was the luncheon portion of the program where Craft shared the aggregate results from the 2020 Shelby County Business Outlook Survey which the Chamber and the Stephens College of Business conducted. That survey featured feedback from business owners and top managers on what they think Shelby County’s economy will look like in 2020.

“We’ve been doing this for five years and you guys have a very positive outlook on Shelby County and you’re always right so it’s great news all around,” Craft said. “We collected this data through an online questionnaire with 213 responses this year.”

During the business outlook survey presentation, Craft highlighted some projected trends for the national economy and the local economy in Shelby County for 2020.

“The economy is growing at roughly two percent right now and by some historic standards you might say that sounds a little anemic,” Craft said. “It’s not as strong as it was a few years ago which is true, but this seems to be something of a new normal we’re settling into.”

When looking at specific survey results, Craft said 87 percent of respondents expect revenues to increase in Shelby County, 70 percent expect expenses to increase slightly, 73.3 percent expect profits to increase slightly and 52 percent expect full-time employment to increase slightly.

Following these statistics, Craft reviewed what impacts job creation in Shelby County and what doesn’t. The two main factors that impact job creation in Shelby County are finding employees with the right skills and experience and finding growth in sales or demand for your business or service.

Overall, the 2020 business outlook for Shelby County looks positive as Craft showed a slide summarizing what the survey respondents believe will happen in the future. The summary for Shelby County is as follows:

–The expectations for revenue growth are unchanged

–Fewer respondents expect profits to decrease

–The expectation is there will be more capital expenditures in the $1 million and over range

–The overwhelming driver of job creation is growth in sales/demand and not costs or regulatory issues

–90 percent of respondents are bullish on Shelby County

–The expectations for the U.S. economy have become more polarized with both confidence and uncertainty increasing

In addition to the presentation by Craft, retiring Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock was awarded the inaugural Alex Dudchock Community Leadership Award for his dedication and service to the county.

The program was held in collaboration with the University of Montevallo’s Stephens College of Business, presented by Graham & Associates CPA and co-sponsored by Noble Bank & Trust and Spire Alabama, Inc.

For more information on the Shelby County Chamber and future events, visit Shelbychamber.org.