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Looking back, forward
Area business leaders weigh in on lessons learned during the recession, expectations for 2012

 Jud Honaker, president, commercial development for Silver Companies to run with Freehling^BENT^0027^EENT^s economic outlook story. 12-21-2011 (Peter Cihelka/The Free Lance-Star) ------ 4 col color
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Date published: 12/24/2011

BY BILL FREEHLING

Top Fredericksburg-area business professionals are cautiously optimistic that 2012 will be a slightly better year for the local economy than 2011.

Forty area business leaders wrote essays for us giving their predictions for 2012 and sharing the lessons they learned during the economic downturn. The full list of participants is below.

Though opinions varied widely, and not everyone was optimistic about the region's near-term prospects, most believed there would be modest improvements next year.

The essays themselves will appear Monday through Friday next week in Fredericksburg Business Insider, a free e-newsletter that goes out by email early each weekday morning and strives to keep the business community informed on local, state and national economic news affecting the region.

Sign up for the newsletter by clicking here.

Here, we will try to summarize some of the factors that our participants think will affect the local economy in 2012, as well as share some of the lessons they have learned. Here are the people who participated:

  • Gene Bailey, president of the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance

  • Brian Baker, executive director for entrepreneurship and business development at the University of Mary Washington Center for Economic Development

  • Tim Baroody, Stafford's deputy county administrator and director of economic development

  • Joe Bell, director of corporate communications for Spotsylvania Towne Centre developer Cafaro Co.

  • Meta Braymer, vice president for economic development and regional engagement for the University of Mary Washington

  • Nick Cadwallender, publisher of The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co.

  • Robert Dodd Jr., president of DLR Contracting Inc.

  • Claire Forcier-Rowe, managing broker of Coldwell Banker Elite

  • Adam Fried, CEO of Atlantic Builders Ltd.

  • Lewis Graves, president and owner of Coldwell Banker Carriage House Realty Inc.

  • Joe Greene, president and CEO of Spotsylvania County-based Mid-Atlantic Foam

  • Karen Hedelt, director of the Fredericksburg Department of Economic Development and Tourism

  • Jud Honaker, president of commercial development for the Silver Cos.

  • Rick Hurley, president of the University of Mary Washington

  • John Izzo, regional vice president for Geico

  • Fitz Johnson, president of Johnson Realty Advisors

  • James "Buddy" Kou-rouklis, president of the Fredericksburg-area market for StellarOne Bank


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Here are some of the lessons area business leaders have learned during the economic downturn:

Focus on core strengths.

Stay positive.

Nurture good employees and recognize achievement. But demand more of them.

Admit when you are wrong and move on quickly.

Don't get sucked into groupthink when it comes to bubbles.

Adjust pricing according to current conditions rather than on realties of the past. Watch the data closely.

Keep expenses low and have a rainy-day fund.

Stay liquid and don't rely on a single borrowing source.

Continue to invest in business during downturns.

Downturns are an opportunity to win market share.

Focus on the long run.

Listen to your customers, even if feedback is negative.

Understand business risk and focus on fundamentals.


Here are some of the factors that will affect the Fredericksburg-area economy in 2012, both positively and negatively, according to our participants:

Positives:

Strategic location along Interstate 95 and proximity to Washington and Richmond

Military bases

Dwindling inventory of homes

Community's quality of life

Low interest rates and construction costs

People living within their means, shedding debt

New investments by University of Mary Washington

Low unemployment rates

Presidential election to eliminate one unknown variable

Skilled workforce

Diverse economy

Negatives:

Federal budget cuts, particularly defense spending

European turmoil

Too much government regulation

Lending still tight

Economy still working through remnants of real estate bubble

Political gridlock

Massive federal debt

Businesses still reluctant to invest, expand