Chris Kuehl

Chris Kuehl speaks to a large crowd at the Economic Summit Luncheon held on Oct. 26.

The best thing that can happen to a regional economy is to have a natural disaster, said economist and public speaker Chris Kuehl at the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce Economic Summit Luncheon on Oct. 26.

He said that disasters like Harvey, Irma and wildfires all alter the economic data and affect job loss, but after the disaster, you have to rebuild, which is good for economic development. Kuehl, who is also a bit of a comedian and media personality, joked that people in Montana are rooting for the Yellowstone volcano to erupt.

“The moral of the story here is have a disaster,” he said.

Kuehl is co-founder and managing director of Armada Corporate Intelligence, which provides strategy foundation, competitive intelligence, business analysis and economic forecasting for corporate clients. He also is the editor and primary writer for several publications. He offered an interesting take on workforce development, which echoes some findings in the St. Joseph region.

“Politicians talk about job creation, but we almost don’t need any more jobs,” he said. “The amount of jobs open are equal to the number of unemployed, but their skills don’t match.”

Local manufacturers, many in attendance at the event, have seen this in action. Kuehl said efforts like Manufacturing Day have helped dispel stereotypes of careers in manufacturing. He said the U.S. needs to make more consumer goods.

“We are an export oriented country, so if the world isn’t healthy, we’re not healthy,” he said. “But we don’t make consumer goods. We don’t make what grows at Wal-Mart. We make the things that make the consumer goods.”

He said in the next year we should expect to see interest rates creep up, but very, very slowly. He said inflation will stay low for quite some time.