November 8, 2016

Election Day 2016. Thank goodness it is finally here. No, not because I am a political wonk, but because I am tired of hearing about it.  Regardless of your candidate of choice, I think we all agree that it will  be a bit more enjoyable to not be inundated with “coverage” from the 24/7 news outlets or rantings on social media from our “friends”.   While I admire people’s passions and advocacy, I will somewhat enjoy returning to hearing only about what a great dinner a friend had or seeing pictures of pets and children.


While I don’t pontificate on election preferences, I do wonder what the next few years will have instore regardless of the winner. Here are a few thoughts along those lines.


Where will interest rates head? After bottoming in the summer, post Brexit, at an all-time low, the 10-year treasury note yield has risen recently to about 1.83%.  Still rather low but headed upward and would seem to continue on that trajectory in the foreseeable future.  Mortgage rates are sitting around 3.50 % for a 30 year fixed and 2.77% on a 15 year, per’s averages.


Recession or not? I heard at a conference not too long ago that it is about 75% likely that we will experience a recession in the first 2 years of the next President’s term, regardless of the winner, based on historical patterns.  The good news is that the expectation is that the next recession will not be as severe and broad as the last.  It may be focused in regions where high growth has been occurring over the last few years.  For areas like ours, where we have recovered but not too rapidly, we may not be as significantly affected.


What is the next wave in housing? Urban, downtown living has been the trend and continues to carry momentum.  But as with everything, how will it evolve?  Will apartment dwellers decide they would rather own?  Will they want to stay in the city or move out for more affordable space?  Are millenniums ready to become first time home buyers?  Do we have affordable housing stock to sell to first-time buyers?  I keep hearing that new construction is steady but there is a shortage of qualified, skilled labor that is making it difficult to build affordable, first time homes.


Will Amtrak bring a wave of new tourists into Virginia’s Blue Ridge? The new station is slated to open in downtown Roanoke next year.  Will the train help us continue to become a destination?  I think with a good marketing effort we will see more folks from DC, the northeast and European countries coming to visit.


How will unmanned vehicles (think drones and driverless cars) change the way we live? Did you know that the Ridge and Valley Chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has a significant membership in our region? There are many local companies working with Google, Amazon, the Department of Defense and many other interested entities to define and establish how Unmanned Vehicles are introduced and used going forward. Burritos are being delivered by drones as part of a study at Virginia Tech and  Liberty University is starting a major program in unmanned vehicle repair next semester. There is great opportunity for our region to be a leader in this sector.  How can you be part of it?


And what will our region look like 10 years from now? In my opinion. We need to think bigger geographically and cooperatively.   It is great that Roanoke(Carilion) and Blacksburg(Tech) are working together on many new endeavors, but as the future develops, we should consider the benefits of joining forces as a mega-region.  Think beyond political boundaries to perception.  Imagine if the area from Wytheville to Lynchburg to Martinsville to Lexington became perceived as a region.  What could we get accomplished without giving up autonomy but leveraging each areas’ strength and understanding that the success of one will benefit the whole?  Jobs created in Pulaski indirectly benefit Roanoke City because workers in Pulaski will come to Valley View to shop and grab dinner.  Don’t believe me?  Go to dinner on a Friday night at one of the restaurants near the Mall.   We are all integrated as citizens of this region. Welcome the successes of each other and develop partnerships to benefit everyone.  Consider the recent formation of the Western Virginia Regional Industrial Facilities Authority(WVRIFA) and it’s acquiring of land for a new industrial park as a forerunner of mega-region opportunities.  Maybe I-73 will be next.


I hope you all have a great election day.