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Eastern Panhandle Growth Outlook Bright

"Going forward we expect continued growth,” said Deskins. “I mean the outlook here is very strong and there's not very much bad news to report. We expect continued employment growth, and the employment growth we forecast 1.8 percent annually over the next five years."
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics has put together its annual report on the economic outlook of the Eastern Panhandle, and it paints a pretty bright picture.

At least that was the message to those at the Martinsburg Holiday Inn on Tuesday.

John Deskins, Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research and Associate Professor of Economics at WVU, presented the research he helped conduct. His focus today was specifically on West Virginia and the Eastern Panhandle.

"The region's growing, the region's healthy. We have broad based growth and a very positive outlook," said Deskins.

The report says the Panhandle's economy has bounced back from the recession. Employment is up, with nearly 4,300 jobs added over the last three years, that’s a 10 percent increase.

Unemployment is down, at the lowest rate since 2008, and the population is still growing. Over the past 20 years the population of the Eastern Panhandle has risen by 58 percent. 

Those are trends that are expected to continue.

"Going forward we expect continued growth,” said Deskins. “I mean the outlook here is very strong and there's not very much bad news to report. We expect continued employment growth, and the employment growth we forecast 1.8 percent annually over the next five years."

The Outlook Conference not only provided an economic forecast for the whole Eastern Panhandle, it also provided help and information to local business owners like, Sandy Sponaugle, owner of Platinum PR out of Shepherstown.

"Platinum PR focuses on targeted communications for economic development and tourism organizations. So having a sense of the economy is critical in what we do,” said Sponaugle.

She said there have been bumps along the way as the county and the region struggled though the recession. But now she looks forward to a bright future.

"Moving forward, I see our company kind of probably growing slightly. I like to, I tend to be pretty conservative when it comes to my own growth and expenses. And as a small business owner, it's scary out there," Sponaugle said.

But she said even with a conservative outlook, the conference provides her with models and elements to help get a return on her investment.

Employment numbers for the Eastern Panhandle are above the national average and nearly double the state average. The projected growth for employment in the state is expected to stay fairly steady over the next five years, with the construction section leading growth going forward.

Trade, transportation and utilities have also all shown the strong growth.
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