Talking heads

By Lori Johnston December 31, 2008


Jack McCabe, owner, Deerfield Beach-based McCabe Research & Consulting

What’s the outlook for 2009?

None of it’s good. We’re looking at a continuation of the recession in the decline in the housing market through the end of 2009, with only a pinhole of light at the end of the tunnel coming in 2010. Sarasota has seen some sustainable price declines and still has a very bloated inventory. Foreclosures and the bloated inventory have been the biggest drivers in continuing to push prices downward.

What needs to happen to get out of this?

The housing market has to reach what is perceived as a bottom. A lot of lenders are afraid to make loans because it’s their feeling that prices are going to continue to decline, and the collateral that backs up the mortgages is going to be less than their mortgage notes are a year from now. When the household price is approximately three to four times household income, that’s where the bottom lies. This is going to take at least a year, and it could take longer.


Tramm Hudson, veteran Florida banker and bank consultant

What’s your outlook for 2009?

2009 is going to be a very tough year. These banks are burdened with loans that are nonperforming, or are not paying. They are severely restricted with how much they can expand with new products or new locations or new product. Credit will be carefully guarded and extended to only the very best customers of the banks. Depositers are very, very nervous, and rightly so, that where they place their money, they need to make sure it is safe and sound.

Are more bank bankruptcies on the way?

I would expect we would have several more to fail in

Southwest Florida before the end of 2009. I think we will also see a consolidation of smaller banks.


Larry White, executive director, Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

What’s the outlook for 2009?

The outlook is not real bright. Nobody’s ever faced this kind of thing, not even after Sept. 11. I am always cautiously optimistic. In October ’07, I said if we could duplicate in Fiscal Year ’08 what we did as a record year in ’07, I would feel pretty good. In 2008, we were exactly even with 2007, so we had a good year. I’m not discouraged. It’s just that everybody is really cautious.

Where are the opportunities and low spots?

We had a terrific European summer this year. It was about 15 percent to 16 percent of our business. We had the dollar in our favor. But the buyability with European currencies has decreased. It looks as though Europe is in a deep recession. We’ve got challenges from the European side. We’re going to concentrate on the drive market. Gasoline going down by at least a dollar is not hurting that.


Moody Chisholm, CEO, ManateeMemorialHospital

What’s the outlook for 2009?

We’ll all be just as busy as we’ve ever been, but there’s a little bit of a lag with healthcare. Even when people lose their jobs, they typically don’t immediately lose their benefits. We are just starting to see an increase in the amount of uncompensated care. We have seen a 30 percent increase in bad debt and charity over the prior year. If that kind of rate continues, then our increase in uncompensated care over the course of the year would be well in the neighborhood of $15 million. Imagine how much more business you have to do to offset the uncompensated care you’re providing.

How do you handle that?

What we don’t want to do is reduce staffing or anything that affects the employees of this hospital. So we focus on trying to be as efficient as possible with the staffing we have, trying to make sure our supplies are used efficiently. We really can’t afford to waste any money when we have so many people who are not paying their bills.


Lars A. Hafner, president, ManateeCommunity College

What’s the outlook for 2009?

The overall picture is somewhat bleak. As the economy goes south, re-enrollments increase dramatically. We are cutting back on certain things while trying to protect our employees and students. We’re approaching this as our real opportunity to become more cutting-edge in the area of technology. We’re trying to take a bad economy and get some positives out of it.

What types of funding cuts are expected?

The governor has held back 4 percent of higher education funding in the state. Another 3 percent to 8 percent would be needed to get us out of this current fiscal year [the legislature was expected to meet on this in November]. The starting point for next year will probably be at that deficit and perhaps more of a cut. How far can you cut into the bone marrow before it just snaps?


Teri A. Hansen, president/CEO, GulfCoast Community Foundation of Venice

Are nonprofits being affected by the slowdown?

Yes. Contributions are down, and state and federal funding are down. Corporations are not able to spend as much on sponsoring fund-raising events because their marketing budgets are down as a result of their revenue decline.

What’s the outlook for 2009?

The good news for our community organizations is that our grant-making from our unrestricted and field of interest funds will remain stable due to our spending policy: We make grants based on a 12-quarter rolling average to ensure to our community organizations that we have a stable level of funding. When the market spikes, our funding does not spike. When the market tanks, our funding does not tank.

How is the economic turmoil impacting donations?

I am hopeful that by 2009, the worst of the economic woes will be behind our country. Until that happens, donors are hunkering down to ride through these uncertain times.


Stan Sabuk, chairman-elect and interim director, Gulfcoast Builders Exchange, and president, Skyline Builders Group

What’s your outlook for 2009?

If there is some resolution in banking, homebuilding and obviously the job market, and if the roller coaster that we’re experiencing in the stock market can at least subside, that will help out in a regional way.

Will there be more layoffs and businesses closing?

Unfortunately, I believe that. For the next six months, it will be difficult [for our industry].

Is there anything the industry can do to help the situation?

It’s a matter of communicating urgency to the people in the regulatory environment who are in a position to move dollars and projects forward from a standing state to a dynamic state. Let’s look at revisiting impact fees to spur on commercial and residential development.


Peter Straw, executive director, Sarasota/Manatee Area Manufacturers Association

What’s the outlook for 2009?

We’re going to have to tighten our belts until the end of 2009.

What must happen for manufacturers to survive?

By and large, manufacturers are by nature proactive and responsive. That’s the only way they can survive in normal, or good times. There are some that are curtailing previous plans. Some have cut back on their workforce. We’re seeing an interest in exports that we didn’t see before. We’re seeing an interest in partnering that we didn’t see before. Tough times make people more receptive to new ways to do business.


Andrew Tanner, president, Sarasota-based Eco Technologies

What’s your outlook for 2009?

We’re looking for increased growth. The government subsidies have been extended for solar [products] to 2016.  We’re finding we had a slowdown this year in the spray foam insulation because there was less new construction. To counter that, we’ve made quite a successful switch to retrofit as well. On top of that, for new construction, the new state energy code is requiring a 15 percent reduction in energy consumption.

How has the housing slowdown impacted your business?

Realtors want their customers to do something more aggressive. More people would be interested if they’re buying a new home to buy one that’s green [with lower electricity bills] than to have a pretty yard.

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