The Times Board of Economists

Hold the fries: Obamacare may drive up fast-food costs

Next year's order of a burger, fries and pop could cost more, as the fast food industry braces for the impact of the Affordable Care Act.

Cashless purchases push past greenbacks at checkouts

Cashless purchases push past greenbacks at checkouts

Consumers' use of credit and debit cards continues to increase at Northwest Indiana shops, gas stations and restaurants.

NONPROFITS: Industry a significant part of NWI's economic engine

NONPROFITS: Industry a significant part of NWI's economic engine

The nonprofit community is a significant part of the economic engine in Northwest Indiana, Harry Vande Velde III said.

MEDIA: NWI market strong, national not so much

MEDIA: NWI market strong, national not so much

The media market in Northwest Indiana has proven resilient, with revenues generally up over 2012, according to Leigh Ellis, president of Radio One Communications.

REAL ESTATE: Buyers starting to "move up"

REAL ESTATE: Buyers starting to "move up"

There is again interest in building new homes, and buyers of both new and existing homes are again looking to "move up" to something better.

MANUFACTURING: Choppy recovery causing turbulence in sector

MANUFACTURING: Choppy recovery causing turbulence in sector

Manufacturing activity in the United States is following a similarly volatile pattern as it continues to recover from the impact of the Great Recession.

ENERGY: New discoveries shifting energy landscape

ENERGY: New discoveries shifting energy landscape

Shifts in how and where the United States gets its energy is driving big changes in the utility industry and the national economy as a whole.

SMALL RETAIL: Better times have yet to take hold

SMALL RETAIL: Better times have yet to take hold

Retailers saw a 2012 holiday shopping season in line with expectations, which have been taken down a notch ever since the 2008 recession and remain that way.

CASINOS: Gaming boats withstand cross-border competition

CASINOS: Gaming boats withstand cross-border competition

Northwest Indiana gaming boats are well positioned for new competition from other states, but could use some thoughtful actions by state legislators to stay on a steady course.

RESTAURANTS: Unknowns give industry the jitters

RESTAURANTS: Unknowns give industry the jitters

Restaurants throughout the nation are dealing with higher food costs and the uncertainties surrounding Obamacare, which are expected to hit the industry particularly hard.

BANKING: Better economy lifts bank earnings

BANKING: Better economy lifts bank earnings

Northwest Indiana bank executive David Rose said income statements of many banks around the country remain better than they were a few years ago as a result of improved economic conditions.

GROCERY: Competition, costs driving consolidation within segment

GROCERY: Competition, costs driving consolidation within segment

Conditions within the grocery segment are encouraging the trend of smaller chains of stores selling out to become part of larger "super-independent" ones, said Dave Wilkinson.

FUEL: Gas prices press consumers

FUEL: Gas prices press consumers

Record high average gasoline prices nationally in 2012 following on record prices the year before have big implications for retailers and the U.S. economy.

GOVERNMENT: Challenges loom on all fronts

Local governments across the state cut expenditures and tightened their belts in response to the recession and due to Indiana's tax caps, so operating margins are now razor thin.

INVESTMENTS: Stay in it for the long term

INVESTMENTS: Stay in it for the long term

Sticking to your goals and thinking long term remain more important than ever, as the panicked din of the media and pundits grows louder and louder.

CONSUMERS: Opportunists working to profit from East Coast tragedies

CONSUMERS: Opportunists working to profit from East Coast tragedies

Con artists are continuing to use seemingly philanthropic ventures to profit from tragedies occurring late in 2012 such as Hurricane Sandy and the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, said Gail Zurek.

STEEL: Products need demand to be sold

STEEL: Products need demand to be sold

As the economy goes, so does United States Steel Corp.

EDUCATION: Enrollments roll with economy

EDUCATION: Enrollments roll with economy

Enrollments remain strong at local colleges as the economy recovers ever so slowly, with large uncertainties such as the fiscal cliff still looming, according to Micah Pollak, Indiana University Northwest assistant professor of economics.

TRANSPORTATION: Uneven 2011 has railroads hoping for better

TRANSPORTATION: Uneven 2011 has railroads hoping for better

After a strong recovery in the immediate aftermath of the recession, the resurgence of rail transport has slowed its momentum, with national freight carriers reporting an uneven performance throughout last year.

AGRICULTURE: Local farmers escaped worst of drought

AGRICULTURE: Local farmers escaped worst of drought

A record drought wilted crops across parts of the country last season, and apple orchards bore less fruit because of weather abnormalities.

AUTOMOTIVE: Auto sales reflecting boost in economic activity

AUTOMOTIVE: Auto sales reflecting boost in economic activity

Light vehicle sales in the United States rising 13.4 percent in 2012 from a year earlier shows that the industry continues to show improvements from the depths of the recession, said automobile dealership owner Tim Roper.

CONSTRUCTION: Big projects still driving force in NWI

CONSTRUCTION: Big projects still driving force in NWI

Construction in Northwest Indiana continues to rebound strongly from the recession, buoyed by big projects like the $3.8 billion BP refinery expansion and smaller ones such as hospital and health care upgrades, said William Hasse III, president of Hasse Construction.

RETAIL: See-saw sales patterns define 2012

RETAIL: See-saw sales patterns define 2012

Retail performance during the 2012 holiday shopping season was largely disappointing because of expectations formed based on sales early in the year, Joshua Halpern said.

HEALTH CARE: Affordable Care Act's impact to be determined

HEALTH CARE: Affordable Care Act's impact to be determined

The ground is shifting underfoot in health care, and leaders in the industry are trying to determine the local impact of elements of the Affordable Care Act.

COMMERCE: Porter County still reaping development interest from hospital

COMMERCE: Porter County still reaping development interest from hospital

The location of Porter Regional Hospital in Liberty Township has spurred development interest in other businesses in the area, said Valparaiso economic development official Rex Richards.

LABOR: NWI missing out on state job gains

LABOR: NWI missing out on state job gains

Although local union leader Jim Robinson said the economy "seems" to be getting better, there isn't a large share of job growth occurring in Northwest Indiana, especially within the manufacturing sector.

Board of Economists

Board of Economists

Harry Vande Velde III, left, president and CEO of the Legacy Foundation listens to Tim Roper, right, owner, Smith Auto Group speak at the Times Board of Economists meeting at the Innsbrook Country Club in Merrillville on Jan. 17.

Board of Economists

Board of Economists

Local business leaders, including Luke Oil president Tom Collins Sr., center, discuss the local economy at The Times Board of Economists meeting at the Innsbrook Country Club in Merrillville on Jan. 17.

Board of Economists

Board of Economists

Harry Vande Velde III, president and CEO of the Legacy Foundation, listens to discussions at The Times Board of Economists meeting at the Innsbrook Country Club in Merrillville on Jan. 17. Members of The Times Board of Economists said protracted political bickering and media coverage of the …

Board of Economists

Board of Economists

Josh Halpern listens to discussions during the Times Board of Economists meeting at the Innsbrook Country Club in Merrillville on Jan. 17.

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