Predicting an optimistic future



duane highley

Duane Highley

 “It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

— Possible Danish proverb, attributed to Niels Bohr, Samuel Goldwyn and Yogi Berra, among others.

The source of the quotation at the beginning of this column has been variously attributed to many people, with perhaps the earliest version found in print in 1948. I can imagine that someday we might find evidence that early American hunter-gatherers, when discussing the nut and berry harvest forecast for the coming year, might have uttered some similar guttural grunt — “Prediction hard, especially in new moons.”

A quick look at the internet reveals that Nostradamus is alleged to have made some very specific predictions for 2017, including the advent of commercial space travel, a breakthrough in solar power and the next Apple marketing campaign. What a visionary!

Disclaimers aside, I am optimistic that Arkansas has a very bright future in 2017. Why? All the numbers point that way. We are poised for tremendous growth in 2017.

Let’s begin with the great recession of 2007. By any measure, it’s finally over. In Arkansas, jobs have recovered and our unemployment rate, at about 4 percent, is now well below the national average of almost 5 percent. Wage growth in recent years has been steady, over 4 percent per year, and inflation has been low, under 2 percent per year.

Post-election consumer confidence is high and rising. The Gallup Economic Confidence Index, the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index and the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index are all up significantly, as is the stock market.

To top it all off, the power supply costs that make up over half of your electric bill are expected to remain stable for several years into the future. Electric rates in Arkansas are among the lowest in the nation, and based on our current outlook they are likely to stay that way. According to the latest information from the Energy Information Administration, residential electric energy rates in Arkansas are the third lowest in the nation. Scenic beauty and low-cost energy:  It’s great to live in The Natural State!

Why am I so optimistic about power supply costs? Because your cooperative owns a power supply system with a balanced energy portfolio that is not dominated by any one technology. High-efficiency natural gas-based plants partner with low-cost coal, hydroelectric, wind and solar to provide a winning combination of resources that balance each other out. When one technology is curtailed or expensive we can fall back on another. Also, your electric cooperative’s power supply organization (Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation) has the highest equity, lowest rates and highest Wall Street credit rating of any of its peers — good news for financial stability and continued low energy costs for you, our members.

I don’t want to overhype this prediction, but I am confident that Arkansas is well-positioned for growth and success in 2017. I can’t tell you what the next big thing from Apple will be or who will win the 2017 world series, but I can say that Arkansas will remain one of the greatest places to live and work in the entire USA. No, make that the entire world!