Despite major staff changes and budget concerns, the UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project is planning a full schedule of seminars and programs analyzing the tri-county business climate.

According to its Web site, the Economic Forecast Project has been working since 1981 on a series of financial estimation models for the Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties. These models examine the impact of numerous factors upon local economies and can be used for long or short-term projections. Although the loss of three key members of the project to other academic endeavors at Thousand Oaks’ California Lutheran University forced the program to undergo significant changes, the Forecast Project continues to push ahead with its work under the leadership of director Eric Sonquist.

“We have gone through quite a transformation this year,” Sonquist said. “Our economists received academic posts at Cal Lutheran, [but] we’ve moved forward using a company called Beacon Economics, whose senior economist is Chris Thornberg who started out at UCLA and then started his own company, because we are absent staff and through the current economic situation we are unable to seek out a new staff.”

According to Beacon Economics’ Web site, the Los Angeles-based firm specializes in quantitative and qualitative macroeconomic research and analysis. The company works with clients in an advising capacity or on individual projects to assess the economic strengths and weaknesses of certain geographic areas.

Sonquist said in addition to its November release of a forecast for San Luis Obispo County, economic projections are planned for Ventura County in February and Santa Barbara County in April.

“I feel very positively [about the work being done this year],” Sonquist said. “We had a great response to the seminar we did in San Luis Obispo in November. It was a sold out event, and we had three different television stations, which is unusual.”

Additionally, Sonquist said he is keeping all options open and waiting to see what the future economic situation holds for the possible hiring of new staff and the continued partnership with Beacon Economics.

“I am looking forward to seeing how the state budget is going, and hopefully receiving more sponsorships so that we can hire more staff,” Sonquist said. “A continued partnership with Beacon Economics is something we will assess in the spring after we have a full year of programs under our belt … but at this moment it has been very positive.”