There were some economic positives in 2016. Interest rates remained low while capital slowly became more attainable, resulting in a demand for investment/income-producing assets. Education and health care remained strong in Morgantown and other parts of north central WV. Respectively, the West Virginia University Board of Governors unanimously approved a $1.04 billion budget for the fiscal year which began on July 1, 2016. (WVUToday) Ruby Memorial Hospital built a 10-story tower, totaling $220 million, that will be home to 750 new jobs, and Mon General Hospital opened a three building, 150,000 square foot, office campus.
These recession-resistant sectors make Morgantown, and other communities in north central WV, such as Bridgeport, attractive investment options that garner attention from out-of-state money. This is evidenced in several large deals in 2016. We would be remiss without mentioning the new I-79 interchange in Morgantown. Metro News states, “A study of the entire development on both sides of the interstate predicted a $1 billion economic impact on the region annually. The impact study indicated the TIF district and incoming developers could support 9,900 jobs by 2025.”
Jobs lead to disposal income which ultimately drives an economy. Although there were economic spotlights to be proud of, 2016 was a challenging year for many commercial real estate sectors. Much of the sluggish business climate in WV and southwestern PA can be attributed to the energy sector slowdown. The rapid decline of coal, coupled with the oversupply of natural gas/oil, negatively affected this region’s economy. Decreased energy-sector demand for office and industrial space led to increased vacancy. As a direct result of this climate, restaurant receipts, retail sales and hotel occupancy all followed suit. Energy sector downturn hurt. In our home base of Morgantown and much of north central WV, there was enough positive economic activity to downplay these challenges.
What is on the horizon for 2017? Well, for many, the presidential election was seen as a pro-energy and pro-business election. Time will tell on both. However, in the last two months, BDR saw an uptick in office and industrial demand via phone call leads. We feel this trend will continue as we move into what we believe will be a healthier economic year with less regulation and greater consumer confidence. OPEC’s announcement to reduce oil supply is a major win for our region. Rising oil and gas prices result in greater drilling activity which leads to more jobs. Average consumers dislike paying more at the pump, but for WV and the Marcellus/Utica Shale territory, paying a little more in gas results in hundreds of high-paying jobs that support regional economic growth.
Looking to the new year, BDR is poised to capitalize on north central WV’s growth potential, including the energy, education, medical, and government sectors.
As you sit down to set your 2017 personal and company goals, remember this important quote: “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” From our team to yours, we wish you a healthy, prosperous and joyful 2017.