Business leaders rely on UofSC economists’ forecast

The impact that interest rates, industry trends and new presidential administrations have on South Carolina’s economy are among the topics that have drawn the state’s business leaders to the Darla Moore School of Business’ Annual Economic Outlook Conference since 1980.

Leaders across industry sectors have to come to rely on the Moore School economists’ forecast and data for their business planning. More than 150 leaders will be at this year’s conference on Thursday.

Among them will be Montague Laffitte, regional president for South State Bank, who has attended the conference the last five years.

“From a forecasting perspective, the conference helps us have a deeper understanding of the market place,” says Laffitte, who earned his MBA from Carolina in 2002. “It also gives us important data that can be used as we make plans for the coming year. With the recent market changes following this election cycle, the upcoming forecast will provide valuable insight as to what 2017 may hold for our state.”

Laffitte says it allows him as a banker to compare what he sees in local markets to the financial and economic projections presented at the conference.

Trevor Knox oversees sales and marketing for Terminix Service locations throughout South Carolina and western North Carolina. He says data for individual South Carolina markets provides the trends and insights he needs as a vice president.

“Terminix Service Inc. has the capacity to deliver service to residential homes and to large commercial facilities. The data helps us understand how markets may experience success, whether it’s a growth in residential homes or new commercial expansion. We need to know how major plans may impact certain communities and how to position our service for success,” says Knox, who earned both his bachelor’s and MBA from the university.

“All economics is local,” says Moore School director of research Doug Woodward.

Woodward and fellow economist Joey Von Nessen realize that the state’s leaders have come to trust and rely on their ability to provide an accurate annual forecast. In addition to analyzing data, the researchers draw upon the economic impact studies and customized research projects they conduct to dive deep into the state’s economy and inform the forecast.

Their hard work and the conference fulfills the vision of Jim Kane, who served as dean of the business school from 1967 to 1993. Kane saw the need for an objective forecast that state government, business leaders and the public could depend on. The Economic Outlook Conference is that service to South Carolina.

The economists' forecast is particularly valuable in years of presidential transition. The Trump administration will be the sixth new presidency during the conference's 36 years.  

Laurence Kotlikoff, this year’s keynote speaker, will discuss what a Trump presidency will mean for federal budgets, debt and an array of critical economic issues. Kotlikoff is the William Fairfield Warren Professor of Economics at Boston University and author of more than a dozen books, including the 2015 New York Times bestseller, “Get What’s Yours: Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security.”

Eager to hear how economic policies under the new presidential administration may impact his clients is Blake Montgomery, vice president of business development for Wells Fargo Bank.

“We analyze the changing dynamics to ensure we adequately staff growing markets,” says Montgomery, who earned his bachelor’s and International MBA from Carolina. “We share the insights we learn during the presentations with our clients. The Economic Outlook Conference makes us better prepared to add value for our clients when discussing new opportunities.”

The conference takes place noon–4 p.m. in Capstone House, with a networking lunch in the Top of Carolina. Joining Woodward, Von Nessen and Kotlikoff will be Meghan Hughes Hickman, executive director of EngenuitySC, Ann Marie Stieritz, president and CEO of the South Carolina Council on Competiveness, making presentations on South Carolina’s competitiveness.

University faculty, staff and students can attend the conference at a discounted rate. Ticket and reservation information is available online.

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