Economic forecasters cautiously optimistic

Cautious optimism was the general theme at the Outlook 2012 economic forecasting forum.

With historically low interest rates, a buyer’s market and a stabilization of home prices, cautious optimism was the general theme at the Outlook 2012 economic forecasting forum.

The sixth annual forum, presented Thursday by 1stView.ca, brought together a series of presentations from industry professionals at the Filberg Centre including keynote speaker Larry Pollock, president and CEO of Canadian Western Bank; Travis Archibald, senior market analyst for Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation; and Shirley de Silva, CEO of the Comox Valley Airport.

The presentations focused upon trends in the Vancouver Island construction and real estate market, with forecasting trends into 2012 and beyond.

Greg Baynton, CEO of the Vancouver Island Construction Association said the Comox Valley has hit a “critical mass,” which he describes as a “tremendously positive indicator for the Valley.”

“The outlook going forward for commercial starts is very good. There’s confidence in the market,” he noted and added overall Canada is ranked ninth in the world for construction activity, but in 10 years, will move to fourth place.

He noted the biggest challenges going forward will be the workforce, and added it is one of the single biggest threat to the industry on the horizon.

“Employers have to start looking at non-traditional solutions to fill the need, such as women and First Nations,” he said.

Pollock echoed Baynton’s theme, and said there is a need to look for skilled labour, perhaps even to the United States.

“It’s a resource we really need to tap,” he noted.

Overall, Pollock said the Canadian economy is faring quite well.

“I don’t believe we’re going to see the calamity in the U.S. (in Canada) because of tax-deductible mortgages and no limits on mortgages. We’re very bullish in Canada; we’re going to see a strong performance out of the country.”

He added the real problem in the worldwide economy is lack of confidence, particularly in stock markets.

“It really does play on our minds. The stock market is driven by fear and greed, and right now, it’s being driven by fear.”

His predictions for the coming year including a stabilization in the Canadian gross domestic product, no dramatic increases in interest rates, a decline in bond yields, and the Canadian dollar rising slightly above par.

The local airport is on track for a three-per-cent increase in passenger traffic this year, de Silva reported. She added there is a possibility of adding a daily service to the U.S., particularly connecting the Valley to Seattle, although the process of securing a route is a lengthy one.

“There is a huge potential of economic impact (with the route), and we’ve met with various airlines, but acquiring a route is a lengthy endeavour,” de Silva said.

Archibald said that, despite record low mortgage rates, housing sales are remaining stable.

“It should be stimulating the market, but it’s the uncertainty in the economy that’s holding people back,” he noted, and added the average home price in the Comox Valley for a single-detached house is just under $400,000.

For more information on 1stView and Building Links, and to view the presentations online, visit www.1stview.ca.

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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