ST. CLOUD - The 52nd annual Winter Institute hosted a business outlook panel on Thursday to discuss the economic future for the St. Cloud area.

The panel included David Jeppson, chief investment officer for U.S. Bank, Mark Partridge, a former SCSU professor now at Ohio State University and Matthew Schoeppner, an economist at Minnesota Management and Budget.

St. Cloud State professor King Banaian was originally scheduled to lead the presentation, but needed to go to the hospital earlier in the day after slipping and falling on ice.

SCSU economics professor Rich MacDonald led the presentation in his place, he says he's optimistic about the economic future for Central Minnesota.

Last year there was a 1.4 percent increase in jobs in St. Cloud, and unemployment fell from 5.7 percent to 4.8 percent. MacDonald adds that St. Cloud's economy should continue to grow, even with the national economy being unstable.

MacDonald says there's been strong employment growth in both the health and education sector and business and professional services sector.

Since 2010, job growth in Minnesota and St. Cloud has exceeded the rate of the nation. The panel says stabilizing housing prices and momentum from 2012 should lead to continued steady growth in Central Minnesota.