Bill Watkins will leave his post as Executive Director of the UCSB’s Economic Forecast Project this spring.

Watkins – who has led the program for the past nine years – will abandon his position at UCSB for a job at California Lutheran University. Two other central members of the project, Director of Economics Dan Hamilton and Real Estate Economist Kirk Lesh, will also follow Watkins to CLU.

UCSB has not yet named their successors.

Watkins said he has no gripes with the campus and is leaving simply because CLU made him a better offer.

“Nothing that is going on at the UC has anything to do with the move,” Watkins said. “I’ve been very happy here. Nothing is chasing me out or driving me out or anything like that. It all has to do with opportunities [at CLU] driving me to leave.”

Established in 1981 by the Department of Economics, the Economic Forecast Project provides the community with information on economic, demographic and regional business trends in the Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura county areas. The project collects and analyzes statistical data in order to monitor the status of the economy and provide projections of future economic activity in the surrounding area.

Paul Desruisseaux, associate vice chancellor for public affairs, said the project will continue despite Watkins’s sudden departure.

“This program was in existence for two decades and will continue long after [Watkins] departs,” Desruisseaux said. “It is a university program, and it will remain in existence.”

Watkins said he and his coworkers were offered the opportunity to spearhead a new master’s program at CLU.

“We are planning on putting in place a master’s degree in economics associated with business school at Cal Lutheran,” Watkins said. “We hope this program ultimately becomes recognized as a high quality, world class program. We have a very nice team, and they are going to be the core of our new program.”

Despite the loss, Desruisseaux said the Economic Forecast Project will remain a priority for the university.

“UC Santa Barbara regards this program as an extremely important and valuable public service and is committed to maintaining it,” Desruisseaux said, in an e-mail. “The UCSB Economic Forecast Project has deep support in the communities it serves, and its sponsors and volunteer leaders recognize that.”

Desruisseaux said the university will begin brainstorming ways to rebuild the Economic Forecast Project immediately.

“UCSB Vice Chancellor John Wiemann, who oversees the program, will be meeting later this week with the project’s board members to discuss the program’s future direction and to develop strategies for moving it forward,” Desruisseaux said in an e-mail.