MANATEE -- For the first time in a long time, economist Henry Fishkind was optimistic about Florida's economy.
Fishkind, known as Florida's premier economist, made a special presentation Thursday to more than 400 movers and shakers in the Bradenton area business community. The principal of Fishkind & Associates, a 36-member economic and financial consulting firm based in Orlando, delivered a promising economic forecast over breakfast at Manatee Technical Institute.
"As long as Washington stays out of the headlines, I think the economy will do fairly well," Fishkind said. "I'm pretty optimistic about where we're going."
Growth has accelerated in each quarter this year, Fishkind said, referring to gross domestic product.
Retail sales were remarkably high this holiday season. Now the area must prepare for a dip in sales during the slow summer months.
The average age of cars in the United States is 10.5 years old. With all the cars turning a decade old, Fishkind thinks car sales will remain steady this year.
Home sales in the region have risen significantly, but will eventually top out, he said.
And interest rates in the country are rising now, but are expected to fall in 2016.
"On the one hand we have growing demand...and then we have rising interest rates on the other," Fishkind said. "I think in 2014 rising demand and income will outweigh the higher interest rates. Then when we get to 2015, it's sort of a stand off...When we get to 2016, the interest rates start to wane."
Fishkind attibuted most of the country's economic problems to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and defense spending.
"We cannot tax our way out of it. We've got to deal
with it slowly in a considered fashion," he said. "Slow, considered, over time, we fix this problem."
Fishkind thinks recovery in Manatee is going to be healthy: "It's a very attractive place, has a significant job market, wonderful housing opportunities. I'm very positive about the work you have in front of you for the next 18 to 24 months."
Mary Lou England, vice president of operations for Goodwill Manasota, said she thought the lecture was very positive.
"It was encouraging to hear Dr. Fishkind's optimism and predictions for job growth and business growth for our area," she said.
Commissioner Robin DiSabatino was equally encouraged.
"It's nice to hear that we're on an upward trend," she said.
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow @sabrinarocco on Twitter.