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ODU’s Annual Economic Forecast Comes “Home” for its 25th Year

Stopping to fill his gas tank at the same time as then-Old Dominion President James V. Koch changed the trajectory of the career of Vinod Agarwal, professor and director of the University's Economic Forecasting Project.

At the Shell station at the edge of campus early in 1995, Agarwal and Koch struck up a conversation. Koch, an economist himself and now President Emeritus of ODU, expressed dismay that economists from other local universities were constantly featured in local media.

"He suggested we should be doing that," Agarwal said.

Agarwal and fellow economics professors Gil Yochum and Mohammad Najand quickly put a proposal together for a comprehensive local economic review. Agarwal figured the idea would join the large pile on President Koch's to-do list and he might hear about the proposal in a few months.

Instead, "I got back to my office and my phone rang right away." Agarwal said. "It was President Koch, saying we were funded."

Today, Old Dominion's annual Economic Forecast, now under the University's Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy, is seen as an influential harbinger of the year ahead, both nationally and in Hampton Roads. And in January, for the first time, the Forecast will be delivered on the ODU campus.

The event is scheduled for Jan. 29 in the Big Blue Room at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. The event runs from 12-1:30 p.m. Registration is under way through the online sign-up form.

"We are excited that the annual presentation of the Economic Forecasting Project is returning to ODU in January 2020," said Robert M. McNab, professor of economics and director of the Dragas Center.

In addition to showcasing the capabilities of the institution, hosting the Economic Forecast can "help forge new connections between ODU faculty and students and the business community," McNab said.

The report has been forging those connections throughout its two and a half decades. Agarwal said in its first year, economists from the College of William & Mary graciously shared key historical local data because ODU had few regional economic benchmarks. But within a decade, the local business community was taking the Economic Forecast very seriously.

"People were believing what we were saying, making business decisions based on our presentations," Agarwal said. "We became much more careful with the interpretation of our data."

Agarwal said support from the University has enabled the Economic Forecast to become a local fixture, but so has its independent voice. "We're data driven," he said.

And driven to be an influential local voice. The Dragas Center has since expanded to produce a portfolio of economic offerings, including the State of the Region and State of the Commonwealth Report, as well as investigations of topics such as opioids and the urban-rural digital divide. For a link to previous Economic Forecasts, see the Dragas Center website.

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