Experts Set to Discuss Economy at 22nd Business Forecast Luncheon

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Regional, national and international experts will discuss the economic outlook for Arkansas, the nation and the world at the 22nd annual Business Forecast luncheon.

The event, coordinated by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29, at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center in the World Trade Center District in Rogers.

The panelists are:

  • Moderator: Bill Dillard III, vice president, Dillard’s Inc.
  • International Speaker: Michael Drury, chief economist, McVean Trading & Investments LLC
  • Domestic Speaker: Kevin Kliesen, business economist, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
  • Regional Speaker: Kathy Deck, director, Center for Business and Economic Research

“The Business Forecast luncheon is our premier networking event for business and community leaders from Northwest Arkansas, the state and the region,” Walton College interim Dean Matt Waller said. “The forecasters provide the attendees with insights that they can use to anticipate economic challenges and opportunities over the coming year.”

 “For the 22nd consecutive year, the Business Forecast luncheon is bringing in the best economists to Northwest Arkansas to present their insights about the economy in the coming year,” Deck said. “We are excited to bring such highly regarded experts to Northwest Arkansas who can provide insights, data and analysis. We know that many of the leaders who attend the Business Forecast luncheon use the presented statistics to make their organizations stronger.”

Registration forms are being mailed this week. For more information on sponsorships or reservations for Business Forecast 2016, contact the Center for Business and Economic Research, Sam M. Walton College of Business, Willard J. Walker Hall 538, 1 University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, 479-575-4151, fax 479-575-7687, or e-mail: To register online, visit the Business Forecast website.

Waller acknowledged the continued strong support of sponsors for the Business Forecast. “Their generosity enables dozens of students to participate in this event who otherwise would not have the opportunity to attend,” he said.

The sponsors to date for the 2016 Business Forecast luncheon include:  

  • Walton Presenting Partner – Walmart/Sam’s Club
  • Walton Academic Partners – Center for Retailing Excellence; Greenwood Gearhart Inc.
  • Walton Corporate Partners – Frost PLLC; Reece Moore Pendergraft LLP; Smith Hurst PLC; Tyson Foods Inc.
  • Walton Business Partners – AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co.; Friday, Eldredge and Clark; HoganTaylor LLP; J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc.; McKee Foods; Regions Bank; Regions Insurance; City of West Memphis; Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP


Bill Dillard III is vice president at Dillard's Inc., based in Little Rock, Arkansas, with responsibilities for the Beauty, Home and Accessories areas of the business. He is entering his 21st year in the retail/fashion industry. Since joining Dillard's in 1994, he has served in several areas, including area selling management, buying, product and merchandising. He also lived and worked in Hong Kong, working directly with overseas manufacturers as an agent for fashion retailers. He serves on the boards of eStem Public Charter Schools, Arkansans for Education Reform Foundation, St. Vincent Health Systems, Young Life and Search Ministries. Dillard received his bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He also received a master's degree in business administration from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in 1999.

Michael Drury is chief economist for McVean Trading & Investments LLC.  He joined the firm in 1992, after serving for five years as senior economist with Allen Sinai at Shearson Lehman Brothers and its successor firms. Drury began his career in New York in 1982 as senior economist at A. Gary Shilling and Co. He assesses global macroeconomic developments to help develop hedging strategies using futures markets in interest rates, currencies and industrial materials. Drury is chairman for the Global Interdependence Center, serves on the executive board of the National Association for Business Economics, is the founder and first president of the Mid-South Association for Business Economics (a chapter of National Association for Business Economics), works as a member of the National Business Economic Issues Council and a non-resident member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, and is the author of McVean Trading's "Weekly Economic Update.” Drury received his bachelor of science in economics from the Georgia Institute of Technology and did his graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kevin Kliesen is a business economist and bank officer in the Research Division at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. He joined the bank in 1988. In his position, he analyzes current U.S. macroeconomic and financial market developments. He also reports on and analyzes economic conditions in the seven states of the Eighth Federal Reserve District, managing the bank's Burgundy Books and developing various materials and information sources for the bank's outreach efforts. Kliesen was instrumental in the development of the St. Louis Fed's Financial Stress Index and the St. Louis Fed's Price Pressures Measure. From 2006 to 2013, he taught economics, part-time, at Washington University. He is a member of the American Economic Association, the National Association for Business Economics and the Association of Christian Economists. In September 2011, he was recognized as an NABE Fellow, one of the organization's highest honors. Kliesen holds an M.A. in economics from Colorado State University.

Kathy Deck is director for the Center for Business and Economic Research in the Walton College. Her research interests include local economic development, industry market structure and higher education economics. She has managed studies for a variety of clients including: Arvest Bank Group, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the Northwest Arkansas Council. She also acts as a media resource for analysis of current events and trends. She was named Business Advocate of the Year in 2015 by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, Communicator of the Year in 2009 by the Northwest Arkansas Public Relations Society of America, 40 under 40 by Arkansas Business and the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal and as a Woman of Influence by Arkansas Business. Deck earned a B.A. in economics from the College of William and Mary and an M.S. in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  


Kathy Deck, director
Center for Business and Economic Research

David Speer, director of communications
Sam M. Walton College of Business


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