Economic Impact of Coronavirus Discussed at Lehigh Valley Business Symposium

By Colin McEvoy on March 16, 2020

The Lehigh Valley Business Real Estate & Development Symposium was held March 12 at DeSales University.

Keith Aleardi of Fulton Financial Advisors projects a 3- to 6-month period of economic disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic, after which he believes conditions will begin to foundationally improve and the economy will start to return to some form of normalcy.

“The big question is how long will this last, and I don’t think anybody can predict that,” Aleardi said during his keynote speech at the Lehigh Valley Business Real Estate & Development Symposium on March 12. “We’re in uncharted territory now.”

Aleardi expects little to no growth in the second quarter of 2020, but that some recovery could occur after that point “if all things go well and this is dealt with properly.” He projects economic growth of 1.5% in the third quarter of 2020, and 2.5% in the fourth quarter.

“I don’t want to suggest this is a time for panic; I certainly believe this will pass and business will go on as usual,” said Aleardi, Vice President and Chief Investment Officer at Fulton.

“Things may be a little different, I think we’re in for some unsettling times over the next couple months,” he said. “I think we’re going to have to do things differently, business will be disrupted, but I think we get back to some state of normal here, probably by the summer if not a little bit longer.”

The symposium’s panel discussion included (respectively) Joseph A. Fitzpatrick Jr., Becky Bradley, Justin Porembo, and George Lewis.

The Lehigh Valley Business Real Estate & Development Symposium was held at DeSales University in Upper Saucon Township the morning of March 12, before federal and state officials began recommending the cancellation of mass gatherings.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) was a major sponsor for the event.

Aleardi led the symposium with a Lehigh Valley economic forecast. He said there are three magnitudes of impact around an event like the coronavirus pandemic: supply, demand, and the effect on the financial system.

He believes supply challenges will improve as employees in China begin returning to work in China. However, he said supply chain disruptions will lead to economic challenges, particularly in the construction industry due to a lack of materials.

Aleardi said the impact on the financial system could be the most severe factor, but he expects the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to take steps to protect liquidity. On Sunday, three days after Aleardi’s presentation, the Fed cut its benchmark interest rate to zero as an emergency measure.

The event also included a panel discussion about land reuse and redevelopment, as well as residential market trends, which was led by moderator Joseph A. Fitzpatrick Jr. of Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba.

Panelists included George Lewis, LVEDC Vice President of Marketing and Communications; Becky Bradley, Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission; and Justin Porembo, CEO of Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors.

Lewis highlighted recent major Lehigh Valley projects such as ADP, Air Products, Stuffed Puffs, and Tyber Medical, as well as successful redevelopment efforts like The Factory in Bethlehem and the Heritage Lanes building in Easton.

Bradley said the Planning Commission expects a 24% population growth by 2045, which she attributes in part to migration by people attracted to the region’s quality of life. This is one of the focal points of the ongoing Made Possible in Lehigh Valley marketing campaign.

Porembo said he projects continued low mortgage rates in 2020 and healthy buyer demand that will create optimism for the coming spring market. However, he noted there is often a softening of activity during election years, which may temper the market in the second half of the year.

March 2020 Issue of LVStartup Has Been Released

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