Columbus Realtors yesterday hosted its annual economic and real estate forecast. The group releases the region's record-setting 2020 housing report later today.
Kenny McDonald, President & CEO for the 11-county economic development organization One Columbus, expressed optimism for the region but with a key assumption regarding COVID-19.
"The delivery of that vaccine is probably the number one issue for economic development because it is the biggest workforce issue," McDonald continued. "We are growing. Most of our industries are actually doing quite well, other than our hospitality and retail sectors. But getting a quality and a quantity of workforce that we need, without that vaccine that's just not possible. Companies are struggling. There's thousands of open positions across the country and right here in the Columbus region. That vaccine is going to be critical to us in getting our labor force back to work."
McDonald pledged to urge One Columbus' partners to help make sure the benefits of economic growth actually reach all corners of the 11 counties and in every neighborhood and every population. McDonald also hinted at some transformative development projects the first two quarters of this year coming to the Columbus-area and the state.
"Eight projects over 1,000 jobs, some of them well over 1,000 jobs, and perhaps even billions of investment behind that literally could set the table with just a few of those projects for the next decade," McDonald said. "We're excited about being on the list and competing for them. We're also very confident that we're going to secure some of those projects, setting the table for healthy housing growth, small business growth, and everything else that comes after those projects locate."
The Columbus Realtors 2020 housing report released Friday shows Columbus set records in highest sales, highest prices, low inventory, lowest days on the market, and lowest month supply. Columbus ended last year with 33,431 home sales, breaking 2017's record by 3.8 percent. Columbus Realtors President Michael Jones said if no more homes were added to the market, the region would sell its existing inventory in about three weeks. One Columbus' McDonald would like to see the number of new builds increase to about 10,000 per year.
Interest rates are the key to knowing where home sales will go in 2021 according to Doctor Ted Jones, Chief Economist for Houston-based Stewart Title and a speaker during the virtual forecast. As for the rest of the economy, Jones noted several unknowns.
"We made it since the pandemic, we're here, but we hardly have anyone inoculated," Jones said. "We don't know what the tax stimulus plan is going to be. We don't know about mutations on this pandemic. We don't know what the tax law is going to be. We don't know what the Capital Gains rate is going to be. We might have another recession, we just don't know."
Still, Jones said his biggest worry wasn't the pandemic or the economy, but civil disorder.