Tom Traynor is a leader in Dayton’s business education scene. Traynor, dean of the Raj Soin College of Business at Wright State University, has been with Wright State since 1988 and was named a professor of economics in 2003. He chaired the university’s department of economics from 1998 to 2001, and again from 2010 to 2016.
Traynor provided his thoughts on the Miami Valley as it enters 2020.
How would you assess the Dayton-area economy going into 2020? Continued slow growth. Employment growth for 2019 lagged slightly behind that of earlier recent years.
Some key causes were:
- Slowing or declining growth in business spending caused a flattening of business equipment employment;
- A decrease in business-to-business services employment; and
- The May tornados decreased employment in affected businesses.
Earnings growth appears to have continued rising and may, once the final estimates are in, prove to be close to the national income growth rate for 2019. Cost of living continues to be very affordable compared with national norms, as is the case for most of the Midwest.
What are you most excited about? The most promising sector continues to be national defense, both in government and contractor growth, particularly with the F-35 mission moving to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the forthcoming expansion of Air Force intelligence activities and the base. Most of these positions will have high salaries.
Another important development at WPAFB is the high rate of employment turnover, primarily due to retirements, that is currently taking place and will continue for many years. While the income per position will fall, the retirement income of those who remain in the Dayton area plus income from the newly hired, the net economic benefits should be positive. Additionally, the turnover will help retain and draw more young professionals to the region.
Growth and development in and near downtown Dayton clearly is continuing with positive momentum. The role of the region’s post-secondary institutions (universities, colleges, community colleges, vocational and technical schools) – they are better connected and more nimble at meeting regional needs than in the past, and this trend has momentum.
What concerns you the most?
- Business-to-business services have shown potential that has only partially materialized over the past two decades. Can this sector ever achieve long-run growth comparable to the national rate?
- Manufacturing – the region should continue to be home to much manufacturing activity, but employment levels and hourly wages will, generation to generation, fall.
- Workforce development – Despite my above positive comments on the post-secondary institutions, there remains a lack of sufficient interest by the public in education and training, as well some mismatched priorities.
- Finally, more and better-targeted public investment in post-secondary education would also improve outcomes.
How did the major sectors/industries in the Dayton region perform in 2019 and why? The industries with the most significant growth in 2019 were health care, up over 3,500 jobs; and leisure and hospitality, up 1,300 jobs. The industries that experienced notable employment declines last year were administrative support and waste services, down 2,500.
What do you expect from the region in those industries in 2020 and beyond? As mentioned earlier, I expect strong growth in high paying professional occupations at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, moderate growth in the health care and professional/technical/scientific services industries as demand for those services grow. Industries that may struggle this year include brick and mortar retail, information services.
What is the best thing about the Dayton economy? I want to give a personal, rather than professional answer to this question and that is that I have found the overall quality of life here to be very good during my time as resident of the region.
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