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DALLAS-Texas has “finally turned the corner,” says a leading Lone Star State economist whose house calls include the White House, where more than one president has tapped his expertise for national committee appointments.

Dr. Ray Perryman made the call at his 20th annual consecutive forecast for the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce, always his first stop on the Texas circuit to talk about the economy of the past year and what lies ahead. Commercial real estate got a real break when Perryman predicted to GlobeSt.com that the industry will recover in nine to 12 months instead of 18 months, the normal lag time for the sector’s rebound.

“Things are happening fast in the economy,” Perryman said after the breakfast meeting at the Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre. “And with lower interest rates once people decide to invest, it’s going to happen very quickly … It’s more nine to 12 months (for commercial real estate).”

Perryman’s forecast that the corner’s been turned was a brighter note than many in his field will say these days–and he acknowledges that. “The numbers that will come out in this area will show it,” he told the roomful of business leaders, economic development executives and investors.

Perryman said “the system is strained.” The average work week is longer, manufacturing orders have accelerated and the machines spinning products are working at peak production. “The only thing to do when you get to that situation is to hire somebody,” he said.

Next year, the Dallas MSA will gain 2.2% or another 44,500 jobs plus experience net growth in the manufacturing and tech industries. Although yesterday’s focus was Dallas, a report by the Waco-based Perryman Group team didn’t leave Fort Worth/Arlington MSA out in the cold: it will gain 31,900 jobs in 2004.

Perryman said the challenge in Texas lies in getting the capital for infrastructure to lead research and development for the commodities of the future: biotech, nanotech and genomics. But, he said they are “challenges of opportunity … You have to be ready for the next wave.” The state is somewhat “behind the curve” in the new lineup, but no more so than two decades ago when Texas played catch-up and then emerged as a microelectronics leader.

The exportation of jobs, professional and manufacturing is inevitable as industries become commodities, driving production to countries with bare-bones delivery costs. But until that happens with today’s growth industries, “we will produce a lot of that until it becomes the next commodity,” Perryman said. “The region is making the right kind investment to make that happen.”

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