South Delmarva Economic Forecast Conference: Businesses Optimistic Despite Rising Inflation

SALISBURY, Md- Business executives and government officials met at Salisbury University’s Purdue School of Business on Friday for the South Delmarva 2022 economic forecast, expressing cautious optimism and highlighting the growth driven by investments.

Speakers at the conference spoke of the region’s top 3 challenges, affordable child care, the expansion of high-speed internet access and transportation, as 3 factors holding back growth. Speakers included local ISPs who indicated federal dollars could be earmarked to go where large operators wouldn’t with high-speed internet, as well as the construction of the Intergenerational Center in Cambridge as advancement for custody. children.

Worcester County Economic Development Director Melanie Pursel tells us Ocean City is seeing an increase in tourism this year and is preparing to become a sports venue, with a revamped investment in its 3rd Street Sports Center as well as the construction of the congress center nearing completion. in January.

“We are seeing new businesses opening up, new hotels, a lot of exciting new activities, especially with outdoor outfitters, activities like stand up paddle boarding and cycle lanes developing, so there are a lot of opportunities in there. Worcester County if we can get that workforce under control. question for 2022, ”she said.

These workforce issues hit restaurants particularly hard, compounding the problems caused by the rising prices of the goods and services on which restaurants depend.

“We can’t in good conscience charge $ 21.95 for a burger with fries, but I’m telling you we’re not that far,” Restaurant Association of Maryland president Marshall Weston said. Weston tells us that inflation makes restaurant margins even tighter, and restaurants can only take a loss or accumulate debt for so long before those price hikes are passed on to consumers. But this has its own risk.

“If inflation continues to rise and the prices of everything continue to rise on the restaurant side, will customers start eating less often because we know that the budget for restaurant meals comes from discretionary funds for consumers? people, ”he said.

He says he hopes more of the federal restaurant relief fund dollars can be used by restaurants to keep them alive, he tells us that only a third of the restaurants that requested the additional funds were able to. claim them.

“All of these things come together in uncertain times and cause a tight labor market, there is a lot of pent up demand not so much supply,” said Wicomico County Economic Development Director David Ryan. Ryan tells us that one way to increase the supply of workers is through vocational training which helps more people qualify for positions in Delmarva sectors, an idea he says universities like UMES and WarWic already realize.

“We have a lot of training going on in County Wicomico, look no further as WorWic is getting ready to start a new technical education building dedicated solely to workforce development and helping kids get the job done. training and financial literacy, ”he said.

Industries that rely on these workers, like breweries and wineries with on-site entertainment and drinks, known as agriturism, have seen a bump in Delmarva. Pursel said companies that make beer and wine using local ingredients, with a physical location open to the public, have been successful. She tells us that Worcester County is looking to ease zoning restrictions for agritourism to allow more businesses in this sector to grow.

“We are looking to relax some of these requirements for people who want to add these businesses to County Worcester,” Pursel said.

Listening to other presentations at the conference, she said she believes the corporate sector is adapting to the needs of the work community, especially removing employees who could have stayed home due to lack of child care.

“The job seeker now has different expectations and I think employers see if they ignore the fact that they will be short-staffed so the total pay has to be more than an hourly wage or at a salary it has to take into account childcare, transportation and housing, which are the main problems for our job seekers, ”she said.