Richmond Federal Reserve Bank President Tours Johnston County

JOHNSTON COUNTY – Thomas I. Barkin, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, traveled to Johnston County on Wednesday to meet with business and community leaders as part of a two-day visit to the eastern Triangle region. Barkin spoke to business owners about the impact of inflation, workforce issues, supply-chain pressures and other economic trends on their operations. He met with industry representatives from real estate, banking, construction, healthcare, agribusiness, tourism and hospitality, life sciences and advanced manufacturing. The meetings and tour were organized by the Johnston County Office of Economic Development at the request of the Federal Reserve Bank, which operates a branch in Charlotte.

“It says a lot about our reputation that the Federal Reserve Bank president would ask to visit Johnston County and meet with us,” said Ted Godwin, a member of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners who participated in the full day’s visit. “President Barkin was able to see a good cross-section of our highly diversified economy and asked a lot of really good questions about what we’re seeing. We appreciate his interest in who we are and how we’re doing.”

Barkin routinely visits communities and businesses in the Federal Reserve’s Richmond District, which covers the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. His ongoing outreach, unique among Federal Reserve Bank presidents, stems from the decades Barkin spent as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company. Most of his counterparts across the Fed’s 12 districts came to their positions from academic or banking industry backgrounds and rely on other means to monitor economic conditions.

“This has been very helpful to us,” Barkin says. “We like to hear about what’s going on in the economy.” Much of what Barkin heard regarded the county’s rapid growth, strong housing market and low unemployment. “It’s always fun to go to a place that’s winning,” he says. As far as what he sees on the economic horizon, Barkin says the next few months will reveal falling inflation levels because year-over-year price increases will have come down from May and June 2022’s hot levels. “That’s put a lot of the inflation psychology to bed,” he says. He suspects a recession is a possibility, “but it won’t be the kind of recession we’re used to,” with construction, manufacturing and hospitality remaining solid while technology and professional services trim employee headcounts. “Every recession is unique, and we’ll figure the next one out.”

Among the stops on Barkin’s tour were the offices of Clayton residential developer RiverWild, Johnston UNC Health Center, Caterpillar’s building construction products division, Kornegay Family Farms in Princeton and Smithfield’s Ava Gardner Museum. The day ended with a reception at Johnston County Airport that included mayors of the county’s 11 municipalities. Barkin’s visit to the region continues on Thursday in neighboring Wilson County.

“We can never resist an opportunity to showcase all the great things happening in Johnston County,” says Chris Johnson, Director of Economic Development for the county. “Today’s very special visit accomplished that objective, but more than that we offered valuable insight that President Barkin can hopefully share with his colleagues as they go about the important work of setting U.S. monetary policy.”