By Michael Carmichael
November 20, 2008
Inforum panel included Richard DeKaser, Chief Economist, National City; Richard Dugas, CEO, Pulte Homes, Inc.; Carla Walker-Miller, President & CEO, Walker-Miller Energy Services
More than 400 business leaders and executives gathered on Thursday, November 13, to hear a distinguished panel of experts discuss their perspectives on the economy at the Economic Outlook for 2009 luncheon held by Inforum, Michigan’s largest business organization for women. The luncheon was held at The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.
A distinguished three member panel presented their opinions on how to turn the economy around. The speakers included nationally known Chief Economist Richard DeKaser from National City Corporation; Pulte Homes, Inc. President Richard Dugas, Jr.; and Walker-Miller Energy Services, LLC. President and CEO Carla Walker-Miller. The event was moderated by Detroit Free Press Business Columnist Tom Walsh.
According to DeKaser, the economy’s woes are a direct result of “three principle problems.” These included the spike in commodity prices, the contraction in the housing market and, most importantly, the ongoing credit crunch. While he forecasted that home prices will continue to decline with the rise of unemployment, DeKaser predicted that the United States will experience positive gross domestic product growth by the second quarter of 2009.
While Dugas agreed that the housing market has not bottomed out yet, and a recovery may arrive in mid 2009, he disagreed on its main cause.
“When people feel their largest single asset is at risk, they don’t feel like buying a car or going on vacation,” he explained.
To aid the economy, Dugas proposed a new stimulus plan similar to one enacted in 1975 by the Ford administration. He suggested that the government give homebuyers a onetime tax credit of up to $20,000 to move unsold homes along with a 30-year mortgage at 4% interest to stimulate sales. While a similar unsuccessful plan was enacted this summer, Dugas explained that it was unsuccessful because it was too small and had to be repaid.
Alternately, Walker-Miller said that the “predictor of growth is the price of gas.” She explained that while the credit market is the current buzz, oil will determine everything.
Walker-Miller cautioned that investment in alternative energy has dwindled as consumers celebrate the current lower prices in retail gas, following a record high of $4 per gallon this past summer. “We were fixing our bikes, riding motorcycles to work.” Now, she said,” Hummer sales are probably back up. We have short attention spans, don’t we?”
And that was the cautionary decree that all experts agreed upon – that while living in this “unprecedented” time, we should plan better for our future.
The Economic Outlook for 2009 was presented by Inforum. With nearly 2,000 members, Inforum is one of the largest and most prestigious business forums for women in the nation. Founded as the Women’s Economic club in 1962 in Detroit, Inforum now has affiliates in Grand Rapids and Lansing, Mich. For more information, visit www.inforummichigan.org or call 877.633.3500.