Busey Executive Sees Continued Strong Economy In Champaign County
A Busey Bank executive is predicting continued economic growth for Champaign County this year.
Speaking Thursday at Busey Bank’s annual economic seminar, Vice-Chairman Ed Scharlau pointed to strong numbers in just about every sector of the county’s economy last year.
He said Champaign County has erased the losses it suffered during the Great Recession, and made gains on top of that.
“You know we’ve had recovery," said Scharlau. "We had a slowdown. But retail sales are up, housing starts are up, growth is up, jobs are up. Those are all pretty important key players.”
Scharlau notes that the University of Illinois is Champaign County's top employer, with 13,857 employees. Parkland College is ranked 10th with 707 employees. But Scharlau warns those payrolls could stall, if lawmakers don't resolve the state budget impasse.
As it is, Scharlau expected payroll on the Urbana-Champaign campus to decrease by $14 million this year, to $986 million. At the same time, enrollment a the University of Illinois is up, with enrollment last fall at 44,800 on the Urbana campus. Scharlau estimates that the next fall enrollment later this year will rise again, to 45,300.
But Scharlau is also forecasting a drop in agricultural outputs in 2017, to $337 million. That's after a "better than expected" output in 2016 of $382 million. Scharlau says Champaign County's projected yields for corn and soybeans are expected to be lower this year than in 2016 — but still slightly higher than the trend line.