Beyond the Build


Thoughts Shared

On Thursday evening, I was invited to a dinner with Raphael Bostic at the Birmingham Branch of the Atlanta Federal Reserve. In June, Raphael took over the reins as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, after a professorship at USC and distinguished career.

As Raphael began his remarks, he offered an anecdotal story about teaching a class at USC. A portion of his students were listening to his talk and the rest were either focused on smart phones or wished they were elsewhere. Raphael contrasted this to speaking at his first FOMC this summer where every governor listened intently to what he had to say, as they did with one another.

I was impressed with his openness and transparency as he talked about his job goals, ambitions and the initiatives he would like to put in place for the region. A few thoughts shared:

  • We will be investigating how housing is contributing to or hampering people’s quality of life.
  • Meeting the Reserve’s “dual mandate” of low unemployment and 2% inflation is an ongoing challenge, as it’s easier to do one or the other, a balancing act. We are at historic unemployment lows, and yet there’s not upward wage pressure and rising prices.
  • As employment evolves, our education system will need to reciprocate. The example he gave was the driverless tractor-trailer, which will impact 3 million truck drivers. The bottom line we need to reimagine from fear to hope, and work on mismatches in schools.
  • Irma was a wind-driven hurricane, resulting in a faster recovery, and Harvey was primarily a rain event, which is harder to recover from. The Fed believes it will impact the 3rd quarter GDP anywhere from ½ -1%. We should be back to normal by the fourth quarter.

While these are changing times–full of fear, world disruption and a zillion other things–our parents and grandparents during the Depression and a World War would have gladly changed places with us.

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Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.