BINGHAMTON, NY (WIVT/WBGH) – A regional economist is cautiously optimistic about the year ahead for local businesses.

The Greater Binghamton Chamber hosted its annual Economic Forecast and Building BC Awards event at the Holiday Inn in downtown Binghamton.

The keynote speaker was Peter Kneis, Senior Vice President of Commercial Planning and Analytics at M&T Bank, which sponsors the event.

Kneis says businesses continue to face difficulty filling open positions, a problem that’s being made worse by the ongoing retirement of the Baby Boom generation.

On the brighter side, Kneis believes there may still be some leftover pent-up demand for spending following the pandemic.

He says what happens with inflation will have a major impact on the local economy.

“If things, especially inflation, starts to moderate, back to more historical norms, the strength in the consumer sticks that we’ve seen, I think that we’ll probably be able to avoid a small recession. If we do have one, it will be very, very small.”

The Chamber also handed out its annual Building BC Awards.

The Restorative Award went to Pritchard Development for its efforts to preserve 2 historic buildings on South Washington Street as part of its Number 5 Commons project.

President Brett Pritchard says there were a lot of regulatory approvals needed for the development that brought a new Mirabito convenience store and Peoples Security Bank and Trust to what was once the Number 5 restaurant parking lot.

But he praised local officials for their help in navigating the bureaucracy.

With 13 businesses spread over 3 buildings, Pritchard says small businesses are looking for opportunities.

“The fact that you can create the right space and the right location and the right atmosphere, the culture we’ve created there with that property, we’ve had no problem getting people in there. We actually have people who are still interested in the space even though it’s totally full.”

The Innovative Award was given to McIntosh Labs for creating not only high quality stereo equipment but also high quality jobs.

BAE Systems received the Transformative Award for its development of low-emissions and zero-emissions buses.

And David and Karen Sobotka, owners of the Rumble Ponies, were given the Individual Award for their community engagement and philanthropy.