By the numbers: 23 qualified projects either fell out of the EDWC pipeline, were postponed or legitimately lost. Approximately a quarter of the $130 million in CapEx represented in them eventually made their way to fruition in one form or another…just not in the ways originally proposed (typically downsized). To put this in perspective, EDWC’s historical win ratio hovers around .3, which is better than the industry average of .2 or so. 2023 saw, by contrast, a win ratio of just over .06. Technical term: “Yuck.”
Most projects expressed high interest rates, a belief that inflation would soon abate and some lingering supply chain concerns as reasons why they wanted to wait or go in a different direction. Basically, they were betting on what many economists are predicting for 2024…a soft landing.
Keep in mind that most economists’ forecasts for 2023 proved dead wrong; but their predictions for 2024 of calmer waters, a soft landing and bullish manufacturing conditions seem to be supported by what we are experiencing right here, right now in Washington County.
High Impact Projects
For starters, we are looking at a powerfully strong pipeline of high impact, high potential projects to kick off 2024, amounting to nearly $90 million in new CapEx. Even if only a quarter of them converted to a win in Q1, that would represent well over 2X greater economic impact than that of Q1 last year.
This mix of projects – ranging from manufacturing to wholesale to retail to logistics – is more diverse this year so far too.
Workforce conditions are looking favorable for 2024, allowing me to predict that our area communities could see some of the strongest growth of available workforce in over 5 years. Population growth across the county is on a steady 2% trend that looks to reach 140,000 people by 2027. The unemployment rate has stabilized at roughly 3%. While this alone isn’t reason to be bullish, labor force participation here is some of the highest in the region and has not seen major ups and downs experienced by other regions with Washington County swinging between 67.4 and 70 percent the last couple of years (hovering around 69 percent in 2023). This means population growth and unemployment changes have outsized impacts here.
Further, Washington County, EDWC and several of our area communities are partnering to increase housing stock and home ownership in some powerful and differentiating ways. Next Generation pilot housing developments both underway and in planning phases across the county and an earned down payment incentive EDWC is administering are all game changers for 2024 that as one leading corporate executive noted, are “real solutions to a real workforce growth problem…the housing shortage.” Add to all this anticipated interest rate cuts and we are on track to improve the prospects for creating “sticky” families by enhancing local home ownership at levels unseen in years.
2023 saw us connect with communities, businesses and prospects in ways previously unseen. Our EDWC resolution is to work to make those connections even more valuable and impactful. Well over 80% of the businesses with whom we work with are in Washington County. Rather than looking for the next shiny, sparkly star by placing lots of small bets out there, the EDWC Way is to double down on the winners: you…those businesses and executives who have already made a choice to be here. Let us know how we can better connect with you.
I can’t wait to discover even more ways to fuel your growth efforts where it matters most.
Happy New Year!