News Column

TD Bank Sees Bright Side to Recent Economic Gloom

Sept. 28, 2012

Elvina Nawaguna

TD Bank

The housing market is getting better. Unemployment, although still less than ideal, is improving, and tourism is coming back.

These are some of the factors that a TD Bank executive said are front-runners in Florida's economy and signs of a comeback.

When there is so much negative news about Florida's and the nation's economy, Beata Caranci, TD Bank's vice president and deputy chief economist, focused on the positive aspects of the economy at a summit in Lakeland on Thursday afternoon, organized to provide local leaders with a fourth-quarter snapshot of Florida's economy.

"This year, the (Florida) economy is keeping pace with the U.S. For the next year and the year after, it's going to outpace the U.S," she said.

The U.S. economy is expected to grow by about 2.1 percent next year, while Florida's growth rate is projected at 2.7 percent, she said.

The housing market, tourism and population growth are going to be important factors in the state's economic recovery. Already, Caranci said, the state is seeing an increase in foreign tourists and improvements in population growth -- the state's demand base -- most of it through immigration.

Jesse Jackson, superintendent of schools for Lake Wales Charter Schools, said the news that the state is making gains in populations is important and directly affects the school system here.

Over the years of economic turmoil, he said, his school district lost many students, especially Hispanics, as many immigrants returned home because of hardships.

When population drops, he said, it affects enrollment figures and the ability to hire more teachers.

"(The recent news) means the economy is improving enough to where people are wanting to move back here," Jackson said.

Brian Ziemba, TD Bank's market president for Central Florida, said the summit was organized as part of the Cherry Hill, N.J- based bank's efforts to continue to bring information to local communities and the businesses it serves.

"There is a lot of nervousness and unrest as to where the economy is going and if we can give timely insight into the economy, it may give them a knowledge base to make better-informed business decisions," he said.

Even as Caranci projects continued growth for the Sunshine State, she said there are still some concerns, such as the still-high foreclosures, which could affect prices of homes when they hit the market. The public sector, she said, will also continue to contract in the next few years.

Florida was one of the nation's worst-hit during the economic crisis and while the rebound looks good, she said, it's also coming from a bigger hole.

Overall though, Caranci said, Florida is coming out of the financial crisis and the future is promising.

"The reality is that the fundamentals are definitely at play and have been for several months," she said.



Source: (c)2012 The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.