Experts predict growth in healthcare, transportation and manufacturing

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Driving the economy forward: Experts say that automotive industry and transportation will be areas of growth in 2013. | FILE PHOTO

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The theme for 2013 might be “slow and steady wins the race.”

Experts say to expect more of the same economic trends we saw this year, but with the silver lining being that things are gradually improving.

Howard Wial is executive director of the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois, Chicago, where he is also an associate research professor. He is a nonresident senior fellow of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. He believes that the areas of growth seen in 2012 are likely to be the ones going forward into 2013. That includes growth in manufacturing, the auto industry and food manufacturing.

As president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Douglas L. Whitley agreed that certain industries in Northern Illinois would continue to improve.

“The industries that I think are doing well and will continue to thrive in 2012 are health care, transportation and manufacturing,” he said. “There will be some uptick in technology. The ones we’re worried about, in the short term, are agriculture because of the drought. It’s likely to have impact on food prices next year.”

Construction, particularly private sector construction, is another area that he sees as being one that will be slow to recover in 2013.

“I think that is going to remain sluggish,” he said.

Real estate has also shown modest growth, although Wial doesn’t see the housing industry making a roaring comeback.

“I think the increase in real estate jobs in the last year indicate some strengthening of the housing market in this area, but it’s not what I would call a robust recovery,” he said.

Some other areas that he predicted will be the drivers of growth includes hotels and restaurants, professional and business services, corporate headquarters, accounting, computer systems, janitorial services and temporary help services.

“Temporary help services are a fairly big growth area. Usual that’s a good sign in the early stages of recovery, because it portends to permanent hiring later on,” he said. “But if it continues for a long time, it may indicate business owners are very uncertain about the state of demand for their products and services, and they are nervous about taking on permanent employees.”

There are more jobs in social systems, which he says isn’t necessarily a good sign – it’s a response to continued hardship during a very weak recovery in the recession.

Northern Illinois is home to several public and private arenas for higher education: from UIC to the University of St. Francis, and Northwestern to the College of DuPage.

“Over the long-term, I think universities are growth-drivers, but I don’t think they have been over the last year or so, and I don’t think they will be next year,” Wial said.

Wial isn’t in the prediction business, but he believes that Northern Illinois will experience a modest upturn in growth in 2013.

“I don’t think we’re going to see a strong recovery in this region, but it will look a little better than it did last year,” he said.

Whitley believes that another overriding issue in Northern Illinois is the access to a trained, quality work force.

“There is a huge need, particularly in areas like manufacturing, for an adequate work force,” he said. “When I talk to manufacturers, they’re desperate to find quality workers. They are resorting to training their own because there is such a gap. Again, the policy–side of government should be asking themselves, how do we make Illinois a destination location for workers? What’s going to be the magic to draw workers to Illinois?”