Recently appointed as the new director of the UCSB Economic Forecast Project, economics professor Peter Rupert has been given the university’s blessing to refine the project’s scope to more localized parameters.

[media-credit align=”alignleft” width=”209″][/media-credit]Rupert’s appointment is part of a new initiative to restructure the project — which analyzes the community’s fiscal data and economic climate — in light of state and campus budget cuts. Although the forecast has detailed the regional business trends of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties since its inception in 1981, it will now focus primarily on the local economy.

Prior to his arrival at UCSB in 2007, Rupert — currently Vice Chair of the Economics Dept. — held a post as senior economic adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland for over a dozen years.

Rupert said he hopes the project’s narrowed scope will yield a more thorough evaluation of Santa Barbara’s fiscal prospects.

“I want the project to deliver timely, useful and accessible information to our region,” Rupert said. “It’s difficult to get local information and the project fills that role. It’s important for local businesses when planning hiring or investment decisions.”

Additionally, Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas said Rupert’s refined approach will strengthen knowledge about the local economy’s inner workings.

“In the past, the EFP has maintained an extensive data basis on economic factors in the greater Santa Barbara region and used these data to understand and forecast economic trends,” Lucas said. “This will still be done, although the analytical methods professor Rupert will bring to bear will be different and more focus will be placed on understanding than forecasting.”

According to Rupert, the project’s main goal will be to create a more interactive and user-friendly Web site and regularly post updated information about the economy, housing and other community-based issues.

“In the future, we hope to provide access to an improved Web site that will deliver an up-to-date picture of the state of the economy at any level of aggregation,” Rupert said.

In addition, the EFP will continue to organize annual forecast presentations and host various speakers in Santa Barbara County. Rupert has already invited Narayana Kocherlakota, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ newly appointed president, to lecture during next spring’s forecast event.

The project’s board of directors has yet to decide whether presentations will continue in Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties. However, the operation will maintain its consultant and contract-based services for organizations in all three counties.

Rupert, who specializes in labor and macro, monetary and family economics, said the project’s new concentration will help facilitate an improved relationship between UCSB and the business community.

“[The EFP] provides a very nice link between the campus and the community,” Rupert said. “The administration at UCSB puts a very large weight on contributing to the community and this is a very direct and useful project with a large impact.”

According to Lucas, the forecast has already begun to evolve into a more locally-focused operation tailored not only to surrounding businesses but to the UCSB student body as well.

“The annual presentation in Santa Barbara will be done in conjunction with our Arts & Lectures program, attracting a better mix of speakers and a bigger audience,” Lucas said. “The data maintenance and analysis includes students, so there is a bigger connection to the academic community at UCSB.”

Chancellor Henry T. Yang said he has great confidence in Rupert’s ability to use the EFP to uncover further understanding of the local economy.

“We are delighted that one of our distinguished professors of economics has taken on the responsibility for this important program,” Yang said in a press release. “Professor Peter Rupert’s visionary leadership, together with his outstanding background and economic insights, will be great assets for this program and our community.”