On November 19, Missouri Western State University hosted the St. Joseph’s Chambers of Commerce 2021 Economic Summit. The event was held in the Fulkerson Center from 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM featuring Esther George as the main speaker discussing the current and changing state of the economy. Esther George is president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City.

The event opened its doors welcoming in leaders and staff from multiple businesses within the St. Joseph area including the events presenting sponsor R/S Electric Corp., and several others including US Bank, Evergy, KQ2 and Innovation Stockyard. Following a breakfast for the attendees and a recognition of all the Commerce sponsors, Dr. Elizabeth Kennedy was recognized for the upcoming two-year anniversary of her Missouri Western presidency on January 6, 2022.

Following the congratulations, Dr.Kennedy took the stage explaining the background of the event’s speaker Esther George. She explained how George leads a workforce of over a 1,000 people in Kansas City and its branches offices in Omaha, Denver, and Oklahoma City. Dr. Kennedy continued to explain what current work George has been doing with the Federal Reserve Bank.

“President George participates in monetary policy deliberations and provides a perspective based on three decades of experience… her policy views are informed by regular contacts with the region's business leaders, Workers, financial institutions and community years.” Dr. Kennedy explained. “President George also makes the development of a federal app service which will provide financial institutions with the ability to set up payments in real-time 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Dr. Kennedy ended her introduction with a look back at Esther George’s time as a Griffon.

“President George I'm pleased to say is also a proud Griffon having received her Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from Missouri Western in 1980… The griffon family is extremely grateful that as her career has brought more and more responsibilities, Esther has continued to be actively engaged with her alma mater.” Dr. Kennedy told the crowd. “She has graciously given her time, she has spoken to numerous groups of students and alumni and how to arrange visits to the Federal Reserve for many of our students. Also in 2005, she received a Distinguished Alumni Award from Missouri Western.”

Concluding Dr. Kennedy’s speech Esther George took the stage. She began with a little history of the economy from her and her husband’s experience in the early ’80s.

“When my husband and I graduated from Missouri Western we made our way to Kansas City in the early 80s. We bought our first home there and we were delighted to get in the 12% mortgage on that little two-bedroom house.” George said. “With what little savings we had left, we were able to put it in the bank at 15% interest. And of course, at the time we had no idea that the economy was about to take a precipitous turn into a recession, in part because the Federal Reserve had to take some pretty strong actions to tamp down double-digit inflation in this country. So I set that stage because the good news is that is not where we are today.”

George’s speech went on to cover why the country is facing more inflation now than in recent times, covid’s effect on the economy and why there is a decline in people actively looking for employment. George felt that when it comes to employment that it isn’t all a matter of people not wanting to work but that 2 million people unemployed could be due to factors such as child care and retirement.

“Most of those 2 million people are women… Many of the anecdotes point to the fact that these women have left the workforce to take care of families to take care of children. And it makes sense if you look at the data about child care availability in this country, it is down about 10% from where it was pre-pandemic.” George said. “So that's a signal of sorts that women are carrying a disproportionate amount of those kinds of childcare, family care issues, and are not coming back to the workforce. The other group of that 2 million are retirees and you often hear in the headlines more people are retiring. Actually, as I look at the data, it's not more people retiring. What we see is that those people that retire are not coming back into the workforce.“

The event concluded with Esther George taking any remaining questions and a final thank you to all the Chamber of Commerce sponsors.

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