Experts Set to Discuss Economy at 23rd Business Forecast Luncheon

top, l-r: Kathy Deck, Ellen Hughes-Cromwick; bottom l-r: Stuart Mackintosh, Shelley Simpson
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top, l-r: Kathy Deck, Ellen Hughes-Cromwick; bottom l-r: Stuart Mackintosh, Shelley Simpson

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A panel of experts will discuss the outlook for the regional, national and international economy at the 23rd 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, begins at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 27, at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center in the World Trade Center District in Rogers.

The panelists are:

  • Moderator:  Shelley Simpson, chief marketing officer, J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc.
  • International Speaker: Stuart Mackintosh, executive director, the Group of Thirty
  • Domestic Speaker:  Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, chief economist, U.S. Department of Commerce
  • Regional Speaker:  Kathy Deck, director, Center for Business and Economic Research

“This is the key economic outlook event of the year for business and community leaders from across Arkansas and the surrounding region,” Walton College Dean Matt Waller said. “The lineup of economic forecasters for the 2017 luncheon is outstanding, and I know they will bring insights about our economy that everyone can use throughout the year.”

Waller expressed thanks to the many sponsors who continue to support the Business Forecast. “Sponsorships mean that Walton College students are able to participate in an event who might not otherwise be able to do so,” he said.

“For the 23rd consecutive year, the Business Forecast luncheon is bringing 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.”

Shelley Simpson is the chief marketing officer of J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc.; president of J.B. Hunt Integrated Capacity Solutions and Truck; and is an executive vice president of the parent company. After graduating in 1994 from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with a marketing degree, she began her career at J.B. Hunt. That career has included positions across various business segments including: director of pricing for Truck and Intermodal, vice president of economic analysis and senior vice president of finance and administration. In 2007, she assumed the role of president of Integrated Capacity Solutions. In 2011, she assumed the sales and marketing executive responsibilities and was appointed as the company's chief marketing officer. In 2014, Simpson also took the position of president of J.B. Hunt's truck division. She is a board member of WorkMatters, a member of the Walton College Dean's Executive Advisory Board and is devoted to causes related to promoting women in the workplace. In 2016, she was awarded the Distinguished Woman in Logistics award by the Women in Trucking organization.

Stuart Mackintosh is the executive director of the Group of Thirty, an international financial think tank comprised of senior figures from central banking, the financial sector and academia. He is responsible for all aspects of the organization's work program, fundraising and program of events. The group's mission is to deepen understanding of international economic and financial issues, to explore the international repercussions of decisions taken in the public and private sectors and to examine the choices available to market practitioners and policymakers. Mackintosh has a Bachelor of Arts and doctorate from Newcastle University and a Master of Science from the University of Edinburgh. He is a certified business economist.

Ellen Hughes-Cromwick serves as the secretary of commerce's principal adviser on economic matters and as a member of the secretary's principal management team. She is on leave as an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business following an 18-year career with the Ford Motor Company as director and chief global economist. Hughes-Cromwick joined the Ford Motor company in 1996 and was promoted to chief global economist in 2004, where she focused on global economic and automotive industry forecasts used to support Ford's business strategy, finance and planning. She also served as a senior economist at Mellon Bank from 1990 to 1996. Prior to joining Mellon Bank, she was assistant professor at Trinity College and also served as a staff economist at the President's Council of Economic Advisers. She is a past president of the National Association for Business Economics and recently completed a 5-year term on the board of directors for the National Bureau for Economic Research. Hughes-Cromwick works to support economic education initiatives and has served on the NABE steering committee to implement the certification program for business economists. She is a board member of the NABE Foundation. She also served in 2013-2014 on the Board of the Council for Economic Education. During 2005-2008, she was on the board of directors and served a one-year term as board chair of Operation ABLE. Hughes-Cromwick received her bachelor's degree in government and French from the University of Notre Dame. She earned a master's degree in international development and a doctorate in economics from Clark University in Massachusetts.

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 a Master of Science in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Registration forms are being mailed this week. For more information on sponsorships or reservations for Business Forecast 2017, 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.

The sponsors to date for the 2017 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; McKee Foods; Smith Hurst PLC
  • Walton Business Partners – AEP Southwestern Electric Power Company; HoganTaylor LLP; J. B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc.; Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull PLLC; Regions Bank; Regions Insurance; Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP


About the Center for Business and Economic Research: The center is a public service/outreach organization whose mission is to serve its constituents with the highest quality research support; basic and applied business and economic analysis; timely, relevant business, economic and related public policy information; and other outreach activities. In addition to supporting research within the college, the center supports economic development by providing economic and demographic data and analysis to business, government and individuals. The center also actively works with the economic development community of the state to build Arkansas’ capacity to create high-wage, high-skill employment.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Kathy Deck, director
Center for Business and Economic Research

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


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