Leading economist James F. Smith joins faculty at WCU institute

One of the nation’s foremost economists, James F. Smith, director of the Center for Business Forecasting in the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, is joining the faculty at Western Carolina University this fall.

Smith, recognized in January by Bloomberg News for having the most accurate forecast for long-term interest rates among a national forecasting panel, will hold a joint appointment in WCU ‘s Institute for the Economy and the Future, and the College of Business.

James F. Smith

James F. Smith

Smith becomes the IEF’s first “professor of practice,” with special responsibility for developing thought leadership and organizing, implementing and leading policy studies, research and policy forums, said Paul Evans, executive director of the IEF, WCU’s regional think tank. He also will serve as a guest lecturer in business classes, teach special topic business short courses and serve in other capacities to assist the College of Business.

“With his considerable expertise in economics and forecasting, Dr. Smith will play a valuable role in our efforts to design the economic development strategies that will allow Western North Carolina and all of North Carolina to prosper in the global economy,” said Evans. “Dr. Smith’s vast knowledge, his achievements and his connections in the business community also will serve us well in the development of the Millennial Initiative.”

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors approved Millennial Campus designation in May for 344 acres of property adjacent to WCU’s main campus. Western plans to develop both the recently acquired property on the west side of N.C. Highway 107 and portions of its existing campus into multiple-use neighborhoods that will become home to a mix of academic buildings, research facilities, business, industry and housing.

During a career spanning 30 years, Smith has been an economist and analyst at the Federal Reserve Board; the National Association of REALTORS; Sears, Roebuck and Co.; Union Carbide Corporation; the University of Texas at Austin; and Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates, now Global Insights. He served as a consultant to the President’s Council of Economic Advisers in 1981, and formalized the process of economic forecasting for the Reagan administration.

Smith writes Business Forecast, a quarterly newsletter available by subscription, which provides an analysis of the world, national and North Carolina economies. The Wall Street Journal named him the “most accurate forecaster” three times in the past six years. He serves on the forecasting panels of USA Today, Bloomberg News, Forbes magazine, MMS International and the National Association for Business Economics.

Smith, a resident of Arden, became the first chief economist for Parsec Financial Management in Asheville in February. He previously was chief economist for the Society of Industrial and Office REALTORS and served as its spokesperson on economic issues and trends important to the commercial real estate industry. He is active in the European Council of Economists, serving as its co-chair from July 2001 to June 2003. Smith also is a member of the National Association for Business Economics, an organization of more than 2,500 members, serving as its president during 1989-1990 and on its board of directors for a record 11 years.

He received his doctoral, master’s and bachelor’s degrees, all in economics, from Southern Methodist University.

Western Carolina University’s Institute for the Economy and the Future is a research, economic development and strategic planning service that conducts economic policy analysis and applied research, and administers regional public service projects on economic and community capacity building and strategic planning.