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January 7, 2019
19 on '19

Insurance: Clark Insurance's COO is betting on a strong year

Photo / Courtesy Clark Insurance
Photo / Courtesy Clark Insurance
Jeff Lind, COO at Clark Insurance

Insurance is by definition a calculated risk, so Jeff Lind, COO at Clark Insurance, hedges his bets when he predicts what the year may hold for the state's businesses. Still, he can't help but be optimistic when he explains what his clients tell him.

"Almost universally, we're seeing folks who expect 2019 to be as good as 2018, if not better," says Lind, whose agency employs 110 people and has five offices in Maine.

Lind cites a couple of reasons for the positive predictions. With the state's unemployment rate at a historic low, employers are eagerly hiring — skilled laborers are particularly in demand. And the construction industry, which fuels much Clark's home and business property insurance, continues to appear healthy.

"By all expectations, this will be a positive year [for construction]," Lind says. "There's still demand out there."

Lind says he sees construction projects that died years ago as a result of the recession now returning to life. "The sense of optimism is strong, especially in southern Maine," he adds.

However, he also sees some cause for caution.

The Federal Reserve increased its lending rate four times in 2018, from 1.75% to 2.5%, and the Fed has signaled it will hike the rate to 3% in 2019. The uptick could dampen the enthusiasm for new projects, Lind says.

He's also concerned about two recent attempts to "create income tax reform at the ballot box." He's referring to the failed referendum to implement a surcharge that would have funded universal home care and the 2016 initiative to fund education with a higher tax on incomes above $200,000, which passed and then was repealed.

Future such attempts could have a negative "pass-through effect" on Maine businesses, Lind says.

And then there are other factors to consider, he adds, including the state's aging demographics, the impact of weather change and storms, and even the development of self-driving vehicles. All could influence the business of Clark and its clients in the 2019. Nevertheless, he says, "This is still a vibrant economy."

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