Up? Down? Flat? Off a cliff? Where the economy goes in 2013 is anybody’s guess. One thing is for sure: 2013 will again challenge businesses all over the country. To help bring some clarity to the direction of the economy and to what businesses should be considering as they prepare to do battle once again, we’ve assembled a panel of four experts for our 2013 Economic Forecast event next week. In advance of the event, we asked each panelist to draw from his or her expertise and answer one question. I’ll be moderating the event and I hope you can join us for what should be an enlightening event.

Larry Zimpleman
Chairman, president and CEO, Principal Financial Group Inc.

“Our expectations for the economy in 2013 are for continued “slow economic growth” (2.2-2.4 percent gross domestic product growth), low inflation, slow job growth and continuing low interest rates. I think that is consistent with most economic forecasts. But I think for businesses, it’s as important to think about alternate economic scenarios – especially the more negative economic scenarios – when you are doing your business planning for 2013. I believe it’s important to think in advance how you would react if the U.S. were to again fall into recession. How badly will your sales be impacted? What will you do to adjust expenses? What if capital investment dries up or becomes more expensive? Thinking about these more negative scenarios ahead of time will allow you to feel much more “in control” of your business as we get market and economic volatility from the debt ceiling debate, discussion of tax and entitlement reform, etc. 2013 is likely to be another year where the focus is more on protecting the downside versus capturing the upside opportunity.”

Kevin Crowley
Commercial sales manager, Iowa Realty Commercial

“2013 will be a year of growing stability, momentum and growth throughout Iowa. After what can be described a slow climb out of the financial collapse of 2008, five years later we find ourselves in a stable, sustainable economy that has fragile momentum with positive signs of growth. There are signs of balanced markets across all sectors of real estate markets. Housing: Shrinking inventory and positive growth of single-family home sales will create opportunities. State and federal stimulus along with a favorable lending has given the apartment rental market unprecedented growth through the economic downturn. Office: With the traditional financial services stabilization, as well as the growth of biotechnology, the Iowa market has stabilized and we are seeing shrinking inventories in central business district and suburban markets. Retail: The economic downturn and recovery has magnified retailers’ focus on the demographics that drive their site selection, while simultaneously entering the world of e-commerce as retailers look for a balance between the cost of bricks and mortar sales vs. Internet sales. Investment Real Estate: Compressed interest rates and low returns on other assets are driving investors to look at commercial real estate across all classes of products. Real estate is once again gaining favor as an investment opportunity.”

Tom Root
Associate professor of finance, Drake University College of Business and Public Administration

“Opportunity is knocking. The financial crisis of 2008 sent shock waves through the global economy. Immediately following the crisis, policymakers took center stage, while businesses and consumers realigned their balance sheets and waited for a more stable economic climate to emerge. In 2013, business leaders should not let political uncertainty continue to dominate their decision making. Business needs to refocus on what it does best, promoting economic growth by finding innovative and profitable ways to provide goods and services. The U.S. budget battle will continue for many years, and policymakers need to focus on austerity. However, this is only one small factor for business to consider. The real message for 2013 is that the economy is on much more stable ground and future U.S. economic growth depends upon business strategically accepting risk. The conditions are in place for businesses to think strategically about the long term and take action or risk missing out on opportunities.”

Debi Durham

Director, Iowa Economic Development Authority

“Innovation and new technologies are the drivers of economic growth. That will be truer in 2013 than it has ever been. Although we’ve made great strides as a state, we must continue to develop and embrace an innovation ecosystem in Iowa. Our economy fared well during the recession because of the strong agriculture base and diversified industries we’ve built over the years, but in order to spur the kind of investment we need to create 200,000 new jobs, we must create a culture of innovation. By working together - businesses, entrepreneurs, universities and government - we can shift the business-as-usual mentality into something that will take Iowa into a future of great economic prosperity.”