Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Vectra Bank's forecast counters local good vibe

I walked into Vectra Bank Colorado's economic forecast breakfast Wednesday and quickly ran into the always optimistic Tim Jackson. President/CEO of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, Jackson bubbled about a 13.7 percent sales increase for his industry in November, and said he hoped that Colorado dealers would finish the year posting a full 14 percent gain for 2011.

Jackson then introduced me to Andy Rogers, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Denver, who said December was the best month of the year for the downtown luxury hotel, and he agreed with Jackson's ebullience over how Colorado's economy seemed to be picking up.

Then I sat down to listen to Vectra's speakers for the day:
  • Patty Silverstein, who delivered the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce's and Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.'s 2012 economic forecast;
  • Mark Snead, vice president and economist at the Denver Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City; and,
  • George Feiger, CEO of an investment firm in San Francisco, a past member of the Vectra Bank board of directors, and a frequent commentator on Bloomberg News, Fox Business News and in the Wall Street Journal.

Man, what a downer!

Silverstein told the crowd in the Seawall Ballroom at the Denver Center for Performing Arts that 2012 was a time for Colorado and metro Denver to "rebuild," but that the rebuilding will be "slow" because consumers are still being frugal; jobs will grow only about 1.1 percent both nationally and locally, leaving 123,000 people in metro Denver still looking desperately for work; "wages have been growing relatively slowly" in the region; and home prices may get boosted 3 percent at most during the year.

Snead, of the Denver office of the Fed, told the 400 business people: "It could be worse, it could be a lot worse. You could be in Greece."

And then he pointed out that Greece and the United States "have just about the same amount of debt."

The U.S., of course, is better equipped to handle that debt, Snead said. It is much bigger, and most of its population isn't drinking ouzo out on the beach. But still the comparison can be made; and, in general, Snead kept repeating, the U.S. and world economies during 2012 will mostly be "bottoming, not accelerating."

And then, with coffee in the room growing cold, Feiger took the lectern and told everybody the euro zone would definitely fail before it got better; China is actually in worse shape than its Communist leaders will ever let on; at least the U.S. is "the least bad place to be" in the world today; and nothing about what he was telling all the business leaders, who are generally paid to be optimistic about the outlooks for their firms, was funny.

"It's very far from funny," Feiger added.

No one was laughing as everybody headed for the doors.


  1. Hard to stay positive and hopeful with that news.

  2. thanks for reading, Jude. You are right, but that is partly the reason I took this tack: to show small business there is something now to be hopeful about, and that doing good things for the business now looks forward to a brighter future.