Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce shares 2021 economic outlook

Barkin said he believes more businesses will return to a somewhat normalcy this summer as more...
Barkin said he believes more businesses will return to a somewhat normalcy this summer as more vaccines roll-out.(WHSV)
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 7:42 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - On Friday, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce held its 2021 economic outlook with speakers from the City of Harrisonburg, Rockingham County and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Tom Barkin, President and CEO at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, was the first speaker at the event who discussed last year’s economy, where they still saw spending in 2020, and the unemployment rate.

Barkin said we are in the middle of the first third of the year, and that it’s going to be bumpy with more COVID cases and cool weather that will dampen spending. But he said the recent fiscal package should provide a helpful backstop for a consumer base.

He said with even more consumers saving money this year, the second third of the year should brighten for businesses.

“With the vaccine and warmer weather, I expect businesses to start to try and return to more normal operations and you know those who are not under government constraints are likely to do that in a wave,” Barkin said. “I can imagine a few high-profile company’s raising their hand in bringing folks back to work.”

Brian Shull, executive director of Harrisonburg Economic Development, and Casey Armstrong with Rockingham County both also presented on local unemployment, business developments and tax loss.

“The city lost about half a million over that one year February 2020 to February 2021 in sales tax,” Shull said. “But if you add the three taxes together meals tax, lodging tax, and sales tax we’ve lost about $5,000,000.”

Moving to unemployment, Shull said, this time last year 67,500 people were employed in the city and county. He said by May about 9,000 jobs were lost but 4,000 were recovered by October 2020

The county also being hit hard, Armstrong also said there was roughly a 30% decline in meals tax last year than there was in 2019.

Armstrong and Shull both said that community leaders are looking at ways this year to provide monetary relief and affordable housing in the area.

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