Charlotte’s most powerful CEOs are predicting the U.S. will fare “OK” as it heads into a new year of economic uncertainty.
Driving the news: Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk, Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison and Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan joined onstage Tuesday to reflect on the past year, discuss work-from-home trends and predict the 2023 economy during Charlotte Regional Business Alliance’s annual economic forecast.
Quick take: The business leaders didn’t warn of a major recession — instead they spoke cautiously of an economic slowdown and inflation.
- “We’ll still be talking about inflation this time next year,” Moynihan said.
- “On a global level I think it’s going to be a tougher economy,” Adamczyk said. “I still think (the U.S.) is going be OK. I don’t think it’s going to be as good as it was in ‘22.”
What they’re saying: Adamczyk called the national market “resilient.”
- “Consumers came back much faster than anybody would have anticipated,” he said, speaking of flight hours.
By the numbers: Inflation slowed in November to an annual rate of 7.1%, the lowest rise in consumer prices since the end of 2021. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve raised its target interest rate by half a percentage point to between 4.25% and 4.5%.
Flashback: During last year’s economic forecast with the Alliance, major companies and small businesses alike were still grappling with the effects of COVID. As they reflected on 2022, the CEOs highlighted the importance of securing labor, adapting to inflation and managing the supply chain.
- “A lot of companies, including ourselves, got too narrowly supplied by one source. We learn those lessons,” Moynihan said. “We learned that back in the pandemic, when we’re running around trying to get masks.”
Here are some other notable themes the CEOs discussed:
Working from home
In March 2020, Adamczyk recalled, a rumor spread throughout the Honeywell office that an employee was coughing.
- “Instantly, we sent everybody home,” he said. “And they never came back for months and months and months.”
Since then, conversations about the balance between in-person and remote work have been ongoing across the country. But the local executives are concerned young professionals are missing out on growth opportunities, from face-to-face training to quick tips from seniority — informal lessons you wouldn’t necessarily schedule a Zoom for.
- “Imagine the first few years of your career, if you never met your boss face to face. That is the experience of the person who came out of college in 2019, 2020,” Moynihan said.
Adamczyk said three days in the office seems reasonable.
- Bank of America drew more workers to its cafeteria this fall by offering free meals. “Apart from thank you for the free lunch on us, the big notes I got back were, ‘It was great to see people interact,'” Moynihan said.
Customers’ proficiency in e-commerce
When Ellison started at Lowe’s in 2018, he said the only headline related to the company’s technology was about its system crashing on Black Friday. But as more Americans find convenience in e-commerce, the company’s digital capabilities have adapted.
Now Lowe’s is garnering national attention for its tech work, such as its “digital twin,” a virtual tool that creates a digital replica of a store.
- “The winners in retail will be the companies that can marry digital and physical stores together,” Ellison said.
- He also said the live-work-play environment of South End, the location of Lowe’s new tech hub, is attractive to tech talent, more so than Mooresville, where the company’s headquarters is.
Investing in Charlotte’s quality of life and racial equity
The CEOs praised the Charlotte Mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative, a partnership between the local government and private companies to invest in historically left-behind neighborhoods, bridge the community’s digital divide and support the historically Black Johnson C. Smith University.
- Bank of America donated $25 million, and Lowe’s committed $10 million. Honeywell contributed roughly $5 million in the form of 13,000 recycled laptops to E2D, a nonprofit in the region.
- “It’s incumbent upon all of us as business leaders to do what we can to make this the best place in the country to live and raise children,” Ellison said, adding that bettering Charlotte makes it more attractive to recruits.
Adamczyk said other cities and communities should look at Charlotte’s cooperation through the racial equity initiative and copy it.
- “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.