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ODU's Annual Economic Forecast Provides Blueprint for Uncertain Times

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Preparing the national and Hampton Roads economic forecast is always a challenge for Old Dominion University economists.

Solid increases in Port of Virginia revenues and strong growth in tourism in 2015 must be balanced against a slower-than-expected recovery in the job market. And as always, the unpredictable nature of direct federal spending hangs over the entire Virginia economy.

In the second half of 2015, a somewhat surprising lift in the caps on defense spending, "means that conditions are looking better in 2016 than they were last year," said Vinod Agarwal, professor of economics and director of the Strome College of Business Economic Forecasting Project, who added that forecasts are still being finalized for 2016.

The 2016 Economic Outlook Conference, presented by Towne Bank, will be delivered Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 10:30 a.m. at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott.

The conference and luncheon is sponsored by ODU's Economics Club of Hampton Roads. The national forecast will be delivered by Chip Filer, associate professor of economics, at 10:30 a.m., followed by the luncheon and regional presentation by Agarwal starting at noon.

Tickets are $40, and the event is free for members of the Economics Club of Hampton Roads. Pre-registration is strongly recommended, ONLINE, or by calling 757-683-5138.

Dean Jeff Tanner of the Strome College of Business, who came to the University last year, said he recognized right away that the college's Economic Forecast is a true community asset.

"This unique perspective on the economy provides solid information for making investment decisions," Tanner said. "When our Chamber of Commerce is trying to attract new businesses to the Hampton Roads area or when a city government is trying to estimate their tax revenues so that they can budget appropriately, they rely on this economic forecast. With so much riding on the forecast, it would be nice to always say it is rosy. But it has to be a forecast they can depend on to be accurate."

Agarwal said despite solid growth on Port of Virginia revenues, an unexpectedly good year in tourism and price increases in the new and existing housing market, the slow job growth in the region casts a cloud over the economy.

"This year's report focuses a lot on employment. Eight years after the recession, we are still not back to our 2007 peak," he said.

The annual Economic Forecast, along with the annual State of the Region Report and new-in-2015 State of the Commonwealth Report, comprise the major elements of Old Dominion's new Center for Economic Analysis and Policy that undertakes a wide range of economic, demographic, transportation and defense-oriented studies.

For information about economic forecasting at Old Dominion University, visit the Economic Forecasting Project website.

The Economics Club of Hampton Roads, which is sponsoring the event, is an organization for business and government executives and community leaders who share an interest in the practical implications of economic principles, trends and events. It was established in 1991 as a community service by former ODU President James V. Koch, and is administered by Dean Jeff Tanner, under the supervision of an elected board.

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