2014 Outer Banks Economic Forecast

Oregon Inlet Bridge 2014No one can say with any certainty what the future holds, but it doesn’t hurt to make an educated guess, which seems to be what came out of an Economic Forecast breakfast held by the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce sponsored in March.

For property management especially, the indicators for 2014 are positive. In reviewing data presented by Kurt Canning of Hutchins Canning & Company, the co-sponsors of this event, all signs show continued growth and profitability for the Outer Banks vacation rental industry.

Indications are that overall revenue per property is trending up and costs are trending down. But, in a marketplace as competitive as the Outer Banks, it’s likely that new construction properties with desirable amenities will receive premium prices over older vacation homes, which are more likely to secure rates comparable to the previous 4-5 years.

Lynn Minges, President and CEO of the NC Restaurant and Lodging Association, discussed statewide trends, and although she provided a lot of information, it is difficult to apply some of it to the Outer Banks. For example, she cited that 43.4% of overnight visitors to coastal North Carolina are from the state. That figure is for the entire coastal region including the southern part of the state, and seems at odds with the 10-11% figure from a previous Outer Banks Visitors Bureau marketing study.

Although the information Canning presented was helpful in understanding regional revenue trends, NC Secretary of Transportation, Tony Tata, provided information that was specific to the short and long-term economic health of the Outer Banks. The Outer Banks economy is connected to the rest of the country’s economy by its bridges and with three major projects currently on the books, his discussion of where construction stands was particularly relevant.

Of particular importance to the Outer Banks, the outbound span of the Wright Memorial Bridge will reopen as scheduled on May 15, although additional work is schedule this fall to complete the resurfacing project. The delay is directly attributable to the cold temperatures our area experienced throughout the winter months.

On Pea Island, a 2.5 mile bridge spanning the New Inlet hotspot has begun construction and will replace the temporary bridge that spans the breach caused by Hurricane Irene. The $79.6 million project is scheduled to be completed in late spring or early summer of 2016.

The replacement for the Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet is still tied up in legal wrangling. However, the North Carolina Department of Transportation won the first round in federal court and both NCDOT and the plaintiffs, the Southern Environmental Law Center, asked for an expedited hearing by the Appellate Court and the hearing is scheduled for May, 2014.

The status of the Mid Currituck Bridge remains mired in bureaucratic language and a statewide ranking system of priorities. There are definitely too many unknown variables to comment on whether this bridge project will ever be launched.