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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Upfront: Onward and upward

Happy New Year!

And it should be a happy year, with many reasons for an optimistic outlook in North Carolina as the calendar turns to 2024. This month’s edition includes a variety of mostly positive projections from leading trade association representatives, investing pros and others. The odds for an unusual economic “soft landing” appear bright, smothering fears of a recession that many had assumed was inevitable at the start of 2023.

As this edition goes to print, inflation is tapering, the job market remains fairly robust and the stock market is thrilling investors. Medicaid reform is enabling many to qualify for health insurance.

In mid-December, we reported a Duke Energy executive’s comment that N.C. electricity demand is growing at the most rapid pace in at least three decades. That surge reflects a dozen-plus expansions by companies making large investments in the state.

It would be hard to find a more relevant data point underscoring that many major businesses have great confidence in the future of North Carolina.

Trees don’t grow to the sky, of course, so there are trouble spots. Bank of America, Truist and other banks have too many unprofitable loans and investments incurred before interest rates increased sharply. A surprising number of office buildings in Charlotte and Raleigh are in receivership because many employers are cutting back on their leased space. Housing costs remain out of reach for young families. Job hunts are proving more difficult for some. Few are taking the soaring federal deficit seriously.

2024 will be dominated by politics, with our state likely to attract national attention for a gubernatorial election expected to set records for spending and divisiveness. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the candidates agreed to reduce the rhetoric and negativity?

In any case, the bigger picture suggests North Carolina is poised for solid, sustainable growth. Mike Walden, the dean of N.C. economic forecasters, expects the national jobless rate to peak at 6% this year, well below the double-digit levels of the past two recessions.

My colleagues and I look forward to covering closely the economic twists and turns over the next year. We hope our loyal readers will stay tuned.

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An annual highlight for BNC is presenting the Legal Elite winners of top lawyers after voting by their peers. Managing Editor Kevin Ellis and Creative Director Peggy Knaack did a terrific job producing this year’s report, which highlights New Year’s resolutions of the award winners.

We’re always impressed by the wisdom and humor that the lawyers share in response to our questions, and this year is no exception. Kevin was particularly impressed with Raleigh attorney Katie Wong, who won the “Young Gun” honor. She said in the coming year she wants to “Answer my own questions about what we should do next so that I can better exercise the muscle of making judgment calls and developing strategy.” Greensboro lawyer Amy Kincaid, who won in the Trusts and Estates category, had a simple New Year’s resolution: “To perform a daily act of kindness.” That’s a goal we can all achieve in 2024.

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at dmildenberg@businessnc.com.

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