A robust panel discussion followed UW economics professor Anne Alexander's graphic presentation of the current state of Wyoming's economy at today's annual Central Economic Forecast Luncheon in Casper.
The condensed version of the discussion was that, "Things didn't get as bad as everyone expected," according to broker Randy Hall of BrokerOne Real Estate.
He noted that although residential construction was down 40 percent, residential sales were only down 13 percent (on top of the five percent drop from the previous year). The high for residential real estate in Casper was 2014, when the average cost of a home was $241,000.
The industrial sector was off 17-20 percent in leases and overall sales from the previous year. The bright spot was in retail, where there is a 90 percent occupancy rate. A recent discussion with tenants at the Hilltop Shopping Center revealed that retail sales are on the upswing.
If retail was a bright spot, the upcoming eclipse in August of 2017 is a comparative supernova. Mark Pepper, chairman of the Casper/Natrona County Economic Development Joint Powers Board, said that the four days of eclipse fest is going to see as much traffic as Casper has in an entire year. Special plans have been drawn up to ensure that, for example, the food supply won't run out. Existing restaurants do not have the freezer capacity to store a year's supply of food. So arrangements have been made with food distributors to station freezer trucks throughout the city to maintain supplies.
"Freezers!" Alexander said, "I never would have thought of that. So cool and neat that you have!"
Alexander's PowerPoint presentation is available below.
A full story on this wide-ranging discussion will appear in the January edition of the Wyoming Business Report.