Leading economic experts and forecasters gathered yesterday at the 33rd annual Santa Barbara County Economic Summit presented by the UCSB Economic Forecast Project, a research group founded out of the UCSB economics department focused on studying the local economy.
The summit sought to provide attendees with a better understanding of the state of the local, regional and national economies. Many local businessmen and women assembled downtown at the Granada Theatre to hear guest speakers at the event in addition to findings released by the Economic Forecast Project. This year’s summit included a panel named “The Future of Work” followed by a national economic forecast given by the Vice President and Senior Economist of the research department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Michael Bryan, and concluded with a rundown of the current economic conditions in Santa Barbara County given by economics department chair Peter Rupert.
CenCal Health Director of Government Affairs Michael Harris said he could not wait to hear the information presented at the Summit.
“Since the healthcare provider I work for represents low-income individuals in the San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, it is key that I understand the local economy,” Harris said. “The work put together by the UCSB Economic Forecast is amazing. You could not hire a consulting firm for millions to show economic trends like they do.”
The summit opened with a discussion moderated by Russ Roberts, an author and host of the podcast series EconTalk. The panel was comprised of UC Los Angeles economics Professor Lee Ohanian, finance and monetary policy journalist with Bloomberg View, Megan McArdle and information technology expert Andrew McAfee. The panelists discussed the future of American jobs, emphasizing the loss of low skill jobs to machines, computer technology and outsourcing. The group explained how technological changes have affected the national job market and how it might look in the future.
After the panel, Bryan gave a short presentation on the nation’s economic outlook. Bryan said that he predicted a 3% GDP growth trajectory for the next several years. However, he warned the audience that three potential risk scenarios could deter growth in our economy. According to Bryan, another collapse of the United States housing bubble, a lack in consumer spending and investment confidence, or a sudden oil shut-off could negatively impact economic recovery.
Bryan also advised the audience to always be skeptical when hearing any economic forecast, including his own optimistic forecast of the nation’s economic direction.
Lastly, the executive director of the Economic Forecast Project and chair of the economics department Peter Rupert gave a brief summary of economic conditions at a local level. He reported on past growth of business in Santa Barbara County, especially in agricultural production in the northern part of the county and the housing and job market among other information his researchers compiled and analyzed.
Congressional candidate running for the 24th district Chris Mitchum, said learning the information put forward at the summit would help him become a more informed politician.
“The economy is the premier issue in the nation. As a congressional candidate, I have to be well-informed on economic trends and this event will provide me with a great deal of knowledge,” Mitchum said.
Santa Barbara High School senior Daniel Feinberg said the talk was a great opportunity to apply economic concepts he learned about in school.
“I had a great time hearing what the speakers had to say today because they used a lot of economics terms in a context relevant to what’s going on, not just in our country today, but locally in Santa Barbara,” Feinberg said. “Overall, I had a wonderful experience.”