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5 takeaways from North Georgia Talks virtual forum on the economy

North Georgia Talks | With economic experts

A live virtual discussion about the 2020 economy and what to expect in 2021. Panelists include Tim Evans with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, Kersha Cartwright, spokeswoman from the Georgia Department of Labor, and Bob Willis of Willis Investment Counsel in Gainesville.

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 The three panelists in Tuesday’s North Georgia Talks virtual webinar on the economy touched on a lot of topics, including the 2021 outlook. Here are a few takeaways from the Dec. 8 event put on by Metro Market Media, including The Times, Dawson County News and Forsyth County News: 

Plenty of jobs available

While pandemic-related shutdowns forced widespread layoffs, “there are jobs out there,” said Kersha Cartwright, Georgia Department of Labor spokeswoman.

The state’s job website,, has hit a record number of listings, she said. “There are opportunities out there we’d like to get folks trained for. Maybe they’ve decided to go into a different direction. Our focus is to get people back to work.”

Tim Evans, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of economic development, said that some 60 employers have posted jobs on a chamber website devoted to hiring,

“Those range from businesses looking for managerial talent, marketing accounting, manufacturing skills,” he said. “It’s across the board.”

U.S. debt could be an issue

The trillions of dollars spent by the federal government this year on economic stimulus, with another virus relief package now being debated by Congress, could become an issue for the country long past the end of the pandemic, according to Bob Willis, of Willis Investment Counsel in Gainesville.

“The problem is being short-sighted,” Willis said. “If the country continues to increase its debt in order to finance stimulus packages and the philosophy is that’s OK, interest rates are so low, that makes the debt very serviceable.”

However, historical data shows that interest rates rise and fall.

“So, the problem becomes the country finds itself with a lot of debt and it has become very, very difficult to (pay it down) because interest rates have gone up,” he said.


Houses are selling, values are rising

Almost bucking the trend of an economic downturn, Hall County’s real estate market has done well in 2020, according to the experts.

For those in the business, “if you’re not busy in real estate this year, you’ve got to ask yourself why, because this has been one of the busiest years,” Evans said.

Residential development, both in single-family housing and apartments, “has been amazing,” he said.

He pointed especially to South Hall, where a boom in housing has taken place over the past few months.

‘Be careful’ with investments

Willis said very safe savings plans, such as money market accounts, are yielding close to zero. 

“That tends to motivate people sometimes to take risks that they probably don’t understand,” Willis said. “I would encourage people to be very, very careful.”

He cited popular investment apps, like Robinhood.

“You have to ask yourself if you’re doing this for entertainment, is it fun or is it serious?” Willis said.


Hang tight. 2021 could be a better year

Each of the panelists were optimistic about the coming year.

Cartwright said jobless claims are dropping every week, jobs are available “and we’re looking at a vaccine coming in the future, so people can feel secure about going back to work.”

And, as previously noted, more economic relief, including federal jobless benefits, may be on the horizon from Congress.

Evans said implementation of a vaccine may start returning life back to normalcy.

Willis said companies have remained strong throughout the pandemic.

“And they are the employers of many of us,” he said. “I have no doubt that year is going to be a much better year. You can count on it.”