Council Ends 2016 with New Leadership and Excitement for 2017

Michael Paris, CQG; Rob Garcia, Bank of North Georgia; Kessel Stelling, Synovus; Scott Condra, Condra Group

A crowd of more than 200 attended the Council for Quality Growth’s 31st Annual Meeting on Friday, December 9th at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North, as the Council elected new leadership, our Board of Directors, and heard a keynote speech from the President & CEO of Synovus and Chairman of the Georgia Board of Regents, Kessel Stelling.

2017 Board of Directors

In 2017, Comcast’s Vice-President of Government and Community Affairs Andy Macke will chair the Council Board of Directors, with Dentons Partner Steve Labovitz serving as Vice-Chairman, Selig Enterprises Vice-President of Acquisitions and Development Scott Selig as Secretary and North Fulton CID Executive Director will serve as treasurer.   The Council would like to recognize our 2016 Chairman Scott Condra and thank him for his leadership and dedication to ensuring a successful year for the Council.

View the 2017 Council Board of Directors list HERE

Keynote Address and Market Update From Kessel Stelling

stelling1Keynoting the Annual Meeting, Kessel Stelling had high praise for the Council, nothing “the Council’s voice is essential as ever” and the noting the Council’s entrance into our fourth decade of existence, recognizing the “Council’s ongoing vitality speaks not just to its effectiveness, but also to the endurance of its vision and the quality of its leadership.”

Stelling also discussed the Federal Open Market Committee, which in its final meeting of the year was expected to raise the benchmarked, federal funds rate of 25 basis points to a range between 50 and 75 basis points.  (On December 14th, the Committee raised the target range for the federal funds rate to 1/2 to 3/4 percent), and that future markets have priced in nearly 100% probability of an increase. He also noted the Labor Department’s announcement of the unemployment rate falling to 4.6% (the lowest since August 2007), and unemployment benefits staying below 300,000 for more than 90 straight weeks – the longest streak since 1970 – and continuing unemployment benefits claims falling to a 16-year low.  In other good news, Stelling noted third quarter GDP growth was revised upward to 3.2%, the fastest growth rate in two years. The current expansion, which began in June 2009, is the fourth longest on record, passing the previous, which lasted from November 2001 to December 2007.  With the U.S. economy gaining strength, “it is prepared for higher interest rates” he noted.

The Board of Regents Chairman and Synovus CEO pointed out that Metro Atlanta comprises around 51% of the state’s population and accounts for 75% of all new jobs created between 2010-2014, with Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett accounting for 40% of the state’s job growth between 2012-2014. Stelling noted that although the Atlanta Region lost a larger share of mid and premium wage jobs during the recession, that more of those jobs have returned here than anywhere else in the state.

Focusing on the University System of Georgia (USG), Stelling credited USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby with the increase of college graduates year over year, citing a 14% increase in college graduates from 2011, with 62,545 in 2016. Crediting Governor Deal’s “Complete College Georgia” initiative, he noted that in Georgia, an estimated 42% of adults between 25 and 65 had some level of college in 2011; today that number is approximately 47%. The consolidation of colleges and universities from 35 to 28 has led to $21 million to help expand access, broaden academic programs and reinvest resources to better serve students. He also cited the economic impact over the last five years of the USG, stating the most recent economic impact survey shows a $15.5 billion impact state-wide (up from $12.6 in 2011), and is  generating 150,000 jobs.

Focusing on the Atlanta economy, Stelling noted that new housing permits in the first nine months of 2016 increased nearly 25% from the first three quarters of 2015 and in turn were up more than 15% from the prior year period. Construction employment in Atlanta has seen a 7% increase from 2015, and up 13% from the first 8 months of 2014. He noted however, these are well below their record highs, especially in new housing, which is approximately half the average level between 2004-2006.

Continuing a trend in growth, CBRE reported the overall office vacancy rate in Atlanta fell to 16.8% in the third quarter, the lowest level in 15 years, while the average overall asking rate hit an all time high of $23.25 per square foot for the quarter. He also noted Atlanta will open its first new office tower since 2010, the Three Alliance Center tower.

Stelling highlighted the health of the banking industry by pointing out a 5.9% increase in loans and a 5.8% increase in deposits in the third quarter, up from the prior year.  Ninety three percent of the state’s banks were profitable in the third quarter, an increase of 5% from 2015, and is closing in on the 95% plus profitability of banks nationally.  Stelling added, “The banking industry is one of the most important indicators of economic health and I’m certainly eager to see our state resume its place as a national economic overachiever.”

We would like to thank Kessel for keynoting the event and wish him and Synovus great success in 2017.