ST.CLOUD - Community wellness is this year's theme for the 54th annual Winter Institute. Hosted by St. Cloud State University the two day conference focuses the economy, health, education, infrastructure, environment, art and many other community issues.

A panel of three guest speakers elaborated on both Minnesota's and St. Cloud's economic outlook for the next six months. Department of Economics professor at St. Cloud State, King Banaian represented the St. Cloud area during the discussion.

Banaian had many predictions for the progress of the St. Cloud economy. Although the St. Cloud employment rate has been decreasing it is still higher than other area metro cities such as Minneapolis. Banaian says there's two main reasons for higher unemployment - St. Cloud has a large number of new workers with little experience and a substantial retail sector that didn't see much of an increase.

With minimum wages going up throughout the state Banaian says "in any environment their will be some people who end up losing their jobs, or at least lose hours on the job they have just because the boss doesn't have enough money to pay that full increase. So maybe they worked 35 hours and now they are working 30-32. Some people are going to get an increase in their pay packet, some will not, a few people will lose their jobs, and so on average I don't think its really had a lot of affect."

The Winter Institute continues tomorrow (Thursday) with keynote speaker Dr. Robert Putnam at 8:30 a.m. at Atwood Memorial Center.

Chrissy Gaetke, WJON