Steady as she goes? It depends on who you ask, but that’s roughly what several economic experts are saying.

When the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce released its 2017 economic forecast recently, it included forecasts from several others as well.

“Going forward, there is little sign that the recovery is in danger of running out of steam,” the chamber’s forecast says, adding that the biggest long-term concern is worker productivity.

Others sounded similar hopes and concerns:

“The sure-footed, slow-moving economy continues to grow at an inflation-adjusted rate of approximately 2 percent per year. We anticipate this to continue through 2017,” writes Clay Nickel, director of investment strategy at Arvest Wealth Management/Investment Management Group. A recession is unlikely but cannot be ruled out, inflation should rise but remain below the long-term average, and wages will probably pick up, Nickel adds. And this, which we’ve heard before: “The demand for qualified labor is outpacing the supply of available qualified workers.”

“Consumer confidence has been on an upswing this year,” writes Jim Huntzinger, chief investment officer of the BOK Financial Corporation. “This is particularly good news because consumers drive GDP growth in the U.S.” Still, he says it’s a mixed bag: jobs gains are “the best economic news of the year” but central banks around the world are struggling to stimulate economies amid “stubbornly weak inflation.”

“The biggest headwind for the economy has been weakness in private investment,” writes Tim Laughlin, director of investment management at First National Bank. Consumer spending is strong and stable, but falling worker productivity and demographic changes are slowing growth, he says.

“Our base-case is that U.S. economic growth improves from an estimated 1.6 percent in 2016 to 2.2 percent in 2017,” writes Sal Guatieri, senior economist of BMO Capital Markets. “Consumers are still spending at a healthy rate, housing markets are creeping forward and business investment appears to be turning the corner.”

Quick bits

McAlister’s Deli plans to open in Independence in early 2017. It’s moving into the former Starbucks and Cherry Berry Yogurt spaces along 39th Street near Jackson Drive. It says it will have 60 to 80 employees. The company, based in Atlanta, has more than 360 locations nationwide and is growing. … The folks demonstrating in various places in places in Kansas City on Tuesday, seeking a higher minimum wage, made a stop on the Independence Square. The group Stand Up KC is among those around the country wanting a minimum wage of $15 an hour. Dozens of people stopped and laid red carnations at the Truman statue in memory of Myrna De Los Santos, who an organizer said worked at an Independence McDonald’s and who died of diabetes because she did not have health insurance. “She had been a leader … for Stand Up KC,” said organizer Michael Enriquez of Kansas City. … Paragon Star breaks ground today at Interstate 470 and View High Drive in Lee’s Summit. It includes 10 fields for soccer and other sports, and the 130-acre complex is to include stores, offices and a 120-unit hotel. The plan is to start play in the spring of 2018. 

All aboard?

After years of improved on-time performance and steady growth in ridership that peaked three years ago, Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner has slipped back to roughly the number of passengers it had six years ago. Amtrak says fiscal year 2016 ridership was 170,751, a 4.6 percent drop from 2015.

Independence consistently has the fewest people getting on and off the train at the 10 cities the River Runner serves. About three times as many stop or start in Lee’s Summit, and about nine times as many use Kansas City.

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which connects Chicago to Los Angeles and stops in Kansas City, was down 0.7 percent in 2016. Nationwide, Amtrak ridership was up 1.3 percent with a record 31.3 million passengers, and it claims to have covered 94 percent of its operating costs with fares and other revenues. 

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business reporter and editor. Reach him at 816-350-6313 or Twitter: @FoxEJC.