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December 22, 2014

The forecast? Sunnier than 2014 (which wasn't bad)

At the end of the year — any year — many people take stock of where they've been and where they want to go over the next 12 months. That's only natural, in part because the holidays provide enough time for reflection and resolutions. Eat better? Check. Read more? Sure. Get to the gym more often? Absolutely! (Although in some cases, that won't last beyond mid-January.)

Many businesses, if they're prudent, get a jump on planning, usually early in the fourth quarter because of all the detail that becomes part of a broader strategy. We kept that in the back of our minds when we launched our annual Economic Forecast survey last month. We figure that with planning for 2015 well underway, the survey results would offer us a peek — at least at a 35,000-foot view — into what business leaders' thoughts are about the year ahead.

Well, the numbers led us to this conclusion: “If you thought 2014 was a good year, 2015 will be even better.”

There were noteworthy victories for the economy in Central Massachusetts, as well as the broader state economy, in 2014. Topping the list of good news was the August announcement by GE Healthcare Life Sciences that it will move its headquarters to Marlborough, which will mean hundreds of jobs and a marquee name for the region in a growing industry. (See our roundup of the top stories of 2014, starting on Page 11.) Meanwhile, the state's job market improved with employment gains and a falling jobless rate.

So, what does that mean for the year ahead? Here's what our survey, conducted between late November and early December, yielded:

• More than three-quarters of respondents say business conditions are better today than they were a year ago, when just 63 percent felt that way about 2013.

• Forty-four percent plan to hire more people, the only year in the last five in which more respondents said they would hire than not hire. (Thirty percent said they don't plan to hire in 2015.)

• More than three-quarters — 77 percent — expect a jump in profits over 2014, up slightly from 73 percent last year.

As we do every year for this special issue, we also offer our 10 predictions for the year ahead, as well as a report card on our prognostications for 2014.

And in each of the six sections within this issue — Manufacturing & Technology, Energy, Real Estate, Health Care, Education, and Banking & Finance — we offer “5 Things to Watch” in 2015.

From all of us at the Worcester Business Journal, we hope you find the 2015 Economic Forecast issue a useful tool as you reflect and look ahead. Please let us know what you'd like to see in this issue in years to come by emailing us at

Guide to stories in this year's Economic Forecast issue:

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