UH's Barton Smith Symposium Focusing on ‘Houston’s Emergence from National Economic Meltdown’

Economic Forecast to be Presented May 6 at Houston's Hyatt Regency

During his biannual economic forecast, Barton Smith, University of Houston economics professor and director of the Institute for Regional Forecasting (IRF), will examine Houston's short-term prospects and long-term future. While he will talk about the prospects that the current national recovery, and hence the Houston recovery, will gain momentum, he will also discuss the potentials and challenges of economic growth in the region over the next 25 years.

In his presentation, Smith will address issues regarding the staying power of this unfolding recovery and the obstacles it faces globally, nationally and at the regional level.  Smith's presentation, "Houston's Emergence from the National Economic Meltdown," will be held Thursday, May 6, in the Imperial Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Houston Hotel, 1200 Louisiana St., in downtown Houston.

Arrangements for media representatives to both attend the symposium luncheon and interview Smith have been made. Smith will be available for one-on-one interviews with individual members of the media and print reporters from 10:30-11:30 a.m. prior to the presentation and at 1:30 p.m. after the symposium.  Contact Richard Bonnin at 713-743-8155 or rbonnin@uh.edu for more information.

In this symposium, Smith will present data on how Houston is faring in comparison to the national economy and why Houston real estate markets have held up better than the rest of the nation.  Last year's wisdom held that because Houston was late in getting into the recession it would likely be late in getting out. This, Smith will show, has, fortunately,  proven incorrect. In fact, he will explain that it now appears that Houston started gaining modest amounts of jobs in September of last year, six months before the national economy began generating net employment growth.

As is always the case at his spring symposium, he will provide the audience with the most up-to-date data on the performance of the area's real estate markets, including single-family housing, apartments, office and commercial retail.  This data will include information on prices, rents, and vacancy rates as well as the most current trends regarding foreclosures.

However, a major message of this spring's symposium is a warning that Houstonians can't be so focused upon the near-term that they ignore the challenges the region will face over the next 25 years.  Smith will review the IRF's most recent long-term forecasts for the region as a whole and for each of the eight counties in the CMSA and talk about what this means for each of these communities.   In looking at the long run, he will first highlight Houston's economic history, starting at the beginning in August of 1836, asking whether Houston's extraordinarily growth and prosperity were pure luck or the result of explicit decision making by both the private and public sector participants.  He will relate that to just how much of Houston's future is in our own hands and what Houstonians need to do to fully exploit our potential.

During the past 20 years, Smith has gained national recognition for his analyses of the Houston economy and real estate markets. Smith wrote "Handbook on the Houston Economy" and continues to present and publish two symposium reports a year on Houston's economy and real estate markets. For more information, go to http://www.uh.edu/irf/index.htm.