The economy is horrendous and it's not likely to get better soon. But it will eventually turn around and there are lessons to be learned from the current crisis.
That was the basic wisdom offered Thursday by four business leaders at Focus on 2009: Tampa Bay Economic Forecast.
About 200 people attended the forum at the Largo Public Library, which featured leaders with expertise in the economy, tourism, energy and real estate. The discussion was moderated by St. Petersburg Times business columnist Robert Trigaux.
The event was sponsored by the Largo/Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Largo Library Foundation.
Scott Brown, chief economist for Raymond James, described the current economy as "the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression."
"We're right in the middle of the storm now," and it's not clear when it will turn around, he said.
He predicted a minimal improvement by mid 2009. But, he said, by the second half of next year, current and future stimulus efforts will start to boost the economy.
Michael Talmadge, executive vice president of Echelon Real Estate Services, focused on positives in the current real estate crisis.
"This is a great economy to learn how to be successful in business," Talmadge said.
In the long run, the dramatic drop in residential housing prices is good for Florida because it will help make it more affordable to live here, he said.
Research projects a general decline in the real estate market in Pinellas County through 2010, he said. But the economy will emerge stronger then.
There wasn't great news on the energy front, either.
Progress Energy bills will be going up 25 percent starting in January, to cover higher fuel costs and early stages of a company nuclear project, said Jeff Lyash, chief executive officer of Progress Energy.
Efforts to combat carbon emissions and find alternative sources of fuel may increase energy costs in the future as well.
Florida's tourism may see a 2 to 4 percent dip unless there is a concerted effort to jump-start the economy, said expert Barry Pitegoff, vice president of research for Visit Florida.
The state has about 84.5-million annual visitors, he said.
Keynote speaker Bob Sullivan, who headed the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, shared how hosting the game drew more than $500-million to the Arizona economy. He said Tampa Bay's hosting of the Super Bowl in February could give the area "an economic shot in the arm."