Indiana State University Newsroom

Experts project economic challenges, opportunities in coming year

February 4, 2009

The dismal economic climate is likely to get worse before it gets better, yet with those challenges come opportunities according to a panel of experts at the 13th annual Groundhog Day Economic Forecast Breakfast.

Business leaders from across Terre Haute and Wabash Valley gathered at Indiana State University Tuesday (Feb. 3) for the event, sponsored by the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, ISU College of Business and Terre Haute Savings Bank. Panelists included Louis Joseph of Hospital Corporation of America Physicians Services; Gerry Dick of Inside Indiana Business; Brian Conley of Conley Real Estate Appraisals Inc.; and ISU economics professor Robert Guell. Nancy Merritt, dean of the ISU College of Business, served as facilitator.

Guell was upfront with his appraisal of the economic situation.

"As bad as 2008 was, 2009 will clearly be worse," he said.

As he spoke to the sold-out crowd, he estimated that most of the people in the room had lost between $100,000 and $150,000 in their retirement savings. He predicted the country will see the bankruptcy of 10 to 15 percent of households before the grim economy begins to turn around.

"This will definitely be the longest post-WWII recession and likely the worst," he said.

The healthcare industry has felt the effects of the recession as it faces a number of other recent changes, Joseph said. He began his remarks by showing a photograph of a roller coaster.

"This is a picture of how life is right now," he said.

Healthcare as an industry keeps getting bigger and hospitals are changing, while patients are getting sicker and need more care, he said. A potential shortage of physicians is also an area of concern.

Joseph projected three possible scenarios for increasing the number of the nation's doctors. The first is to recruit and train more doctors, the second is to learn to live without them and the third option is to "take someone else's." Joseph noted that one-third of physicians in the U.S. were not born here and that steps need to be taken to encourage those doctors to continue their practices here.

Outsourcing of healthcare is another trend, with an increasing number of patients seeking medical care overseas. Other changes include "minute clinics" in pharmacies that allow patients to receive prescriptions for everyday aliments without having to visit a doctor's office, Web sites that enable users to post medical histories online and advancement in technology that have led to innovative procedures.

All of these changes will continue to affect the healthcare industry in the coming years, Joseph said.

The real estate industry has been especially hard hit by the recession. Conley outlined market conditions that have affected Vigo County during the past year including a volatile national housing market, the loss of jobs after Pfizer cut production and the flooding in June of 2008. While all three areas have affected home values in the area, Conley said there was "light at the end of the tunnel," in terms of refinancing opportunities and low interest rates.

"It's definitely a buyer's market," he said.

Dick noted that while job cuts and budget reductions will continue in the new year, Indiana is positioned to emerge from the recession more competitive than other states. He encouraged business leaders to embrace innovation in spite of economic challenges.

"Do we have the willingness to go out and promote Indiana as a great place to do business?" he asked.


Writer: Emily Taylor, assistant director of media relations, Communications & Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or

Photo: Gerry Dick, host of Inside Indiana Business, discusses the state's economic climate and makes projections for the upcoming year during the 13th annual Groundhog Day Economic Forecast Breakfast. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Click here to view additional photos from the event.