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Movers and Shakers of County Economic Summit Mix It Up at Pre-Reception

Gillian Tett of the Financial Times serves as the keynote speaker for the evening at The Valley Club in Montecito

A special reception with some heavyweights in the financial field was held earlier this month at The Valley Club in Montecito on the evening before the 31st Annual Santa Barbara County Economic Summit sponsored by the UCSB Economic Forecast Project.

An intimate and private members-only golf course, The Valley Club was designed in 1929 by Alister MacKenzie, who that same year also completed work at Augusta National in Augusta, Ga.

“The Valley Club is a very special place, and they have hosted this event the last several years and we’re really privileged to be here,” said Suzanne Elledge, chair of the Economic Forecast Project. “It’s a fun thing to all get together the night before the program and get a chance to talk to each other and have a little bit of a bigger opportunity to network than we do on the day of the event.”

The Economic Forecast Project is a self-supporting research program, administered by the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor at UCSB, providing Santa Barbara County and the Tri-Counties with extensive databases and models.

“It’s a really wonderful organization that joins UCSB and the Economics Department at UCSB with the local business community, and it’s been in existence for 31 years now,” Elledge said. “There’s a lot of information available on the state and national level as far as the economy is concerned but not so much at the local level, and that’s what the program sought to fill — that void so businesses know what’s happening with the local economy in our city or county and statewide.”

The organization’s long history was recently bolstered by the appointment of a new director who has brought a new energy to the direction of the program and its goals.

“We asked Peter Rupert from the Economics Department at UCSB to step in and become the director, and he’s taken it in a whole different direction and I think provided a lot of new opportunities for board members and sponsors to be connected with what’s happening in respect to the economic development of the area as a whole,” said Gene Lucas, executive vice chancellor for UCSB who is in his 10th year with the Economic Forecast Project and in his 35th year at UCSB.

Rupert places an emphasis on macroeconomics, international economics, institutional economics, labor economics, monetary theory and public economics, and relishes the opportunity to provide sound data to business leaders within the community in order to make critical decisions that affect the area now and in the future.

“One of the things we try to do is give the community the data that’s out there to sort of make informed decisions in terms of maybe hiring, buying houses and selling houses,” said Rupert, professor of economics, UCSB, and Ph.D., University of Rochester. “And what we try to do is make it very convenient for the community to understand all aspects, including demography, education, anything you can think of, to get the data out there so people can make informed decisions.”

In preparation for the presentations of this important and critical analyses, pre-reception guests were treated to a unique environment surrounded by the mountains and sea, where The Valley Club’s peaceful setting showcases an appreciation for nature and a sensitivity to the beautiful surroundings.

MacKenzie was an internationally renowned architect of some of the world’s finest golf courses, and this exclusive local club similarly fits that mold and provided a sound backdrop for some equally talented financial minds.

“This reception is fantastic because you really do have all of the industries that are represented on the board,” Elledge said. “Just incredibly experienced and talented people that work in our community, and to have them all here together — it’s an honor to be with them all.”

At the top of the list for the evening was keynote speaker Gillian Tett, U.S. managing editor of the Financial Times, who spoke the next day on the topic of progressing “from the Great Moderation to the Great Instability.”

As a leading authority on capital markets, Tett predicted the financial crisis in 2006 and widely speaks on the role of markets in a global scale with a keen eye toward everyday events and local circumstances.

“One of the things I try really hard to do is to get out of Manhattan and Washington and the Beltway and get out of the far too cozy world that someone can end up staying in if someone ends up on the East Coast or over in San Francisco and Los Angeles,” Tett told Noozhawk. “And to talk to different people and try to understand what’s going on.”

The 2012 Santa Barbara Economic Summit was the biggest and most successful in the organization’s history, with more than 1,000 in attendance, and on this invitation-only evening before the event, Tett shared with Noozhawk the focus of her presentation for the next day.

“Essentially I’m going to try and draw on my background as a social anthropologist and argue that economics these days is not just about numbers, it’s also about an appreciation of social and political fabric,” Tett said. “And when you look at the events developing both in America and Europe these days you have to focus on what I call the two Cs. Credit in the old-fashioned sense of trust, and cohesion in the sense of where the society can stick together.”

Other presenters for the event and among those in attendance at The Valley Club also included Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart, San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams, Charles Plosser and David Altig.

Spirits were high at the prestigious event, and the news the next day for Santa Barbara County was promising in regards to feeling somewhat insulated from the recession, but the impact of the decisions from the people at this pre-event reception, and leaders worldwide, was important to the economy as a whole.

“As governments on both sides of the Atlantic try to confront the enormous scale of fiscal challenges they’re facing, they’re dogged with the aftermath of the financial crisis, and how to actually implement a viable economic strategy that keeps society together is critical,” Tett said. “And going forward I think that political economy question is going to be more and more important.”

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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