Leading UNC Economist Joins Faculty at WCU Institute

Nationally renowned economist James F. Smith, long noted for his accuracy in economic forecasting, is leaving Carolina after 18 years to join the faculty at Western Carolina University.

At UNC, Smith also has been director of the Center for Business Forecasting in the Kenan-Flagler Business School. He joins WCU this fall, holding a joint appointment in WCU ‘s Institute for the Economy and the Future, a regional think tank, and in the College of Business.

Smith told The News & Observer of Raleigh that he would continue his affiliation with UNC but that his primary focus will be on WCU. He and his wife have moved to Arden, outside of Asheville, from Chapel Hill.

Smith was recognized in January by Bloomberg News for having the most accurate forecast for long-term interest rates among a national forecasting panel. 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 Corp.; 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.

At WCU, Smith will become the institute’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, the institute’s executive director. 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 UNC System Board of Governors approved Millennial Campus designation in May for 344 acres of property adjacent to WCU’s main campus. Western plans to develop the recently acquired property 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.

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