WILDWOOD — While the nation's economy is likely to see slow growth this year, local business leaders expect the 2013 season to be a strong one for the Wildwoods.

During a Greater Wildwoods Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Luke Tilley, regional economic adviser with the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, said the country will continue to see slow growth as it comes out of the recession because there remains "a lot of business uncertainty."

"Investment is slow nationally and regionally," Tilley said, adding that "we can see companies are sitting on a lot of cash."

According to the most recent South Jersey Business Survey, firms in the South Jersey region reported steady business activity during the third quarter of 2012 but little increase in overall business activity and level sales compared with the previous quarter.

Employment among the firms polled showed some pickup, however.

“Firms, on balance, expect increases in overall business over the next six months, although optimism is weaker than in the first half of the year, as firms cited increased uncertainty about their outlook," the survey reported.

Tilley addressed the chamber members at the annual business forecast session, a talk regularly delivered by Crest Savings President and CEO Jay M. Ford.

After Tilley's presentation, Ford said that, locally, the forecast looks good for a strong season.

"2012 was a record year for the tourism tax. That's indicative of a good year for 2013," Ford said.

Ford added that the impact of Hurricane Sandy on other New Jersey shore communities will likely benefit those areas that came through the storm with little to no damage.

"That will definitely impact us," Ford said.

Ford added that like any season the regions' biggest challenge is something it cannot control.

"Weather is always the unknown," Ford said.

Chamber Executive Director Tracey Dufault said the annual forecast luncheon is an opportunity for chamber members to learn more about the economics of the region in an accessible format.

"You need the experts to tell you what's going on," she said.

Ford was noted for giving helpful advice at past sessions about everything from 401Ks to the real estate market.

Ford invited the Federal Reserve to speak this year and Tilley spoke about national trends.

While the agency collects volumes of data, Tilley said a large part of the agency's work is listening to real business owners like those in Cape May County.

He said Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Charles Plosser values real-time feedback from business people in the region.

Tilley said that nationally the economy was experiencing growth, but was not back where it had been prior to the recession.

Business investment, in particular, remained flat, he said, while personal consumption had grown slowly.

Unemployment nationally is at 7.8 percent, while it sits at 9.6 percent in New Jersey and 13.1 in the Ocean City metropolitan area, which encompasses all of Cape May County.

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