Over 100 MBA alumni, students, faculty and staff gathered for the inaugural Economic Breakfast in January to network and consider the national and regional economic outlook as presented by Dr. Ann Battle Macheras, vice president of the research department of regional economics for the Federal Research Bank of Richmond.

“Positive signs are emerging,” she said to the audience, which included several members of the Richmond Alumni MBA Society. And she’s someone who would know – Macheras oversees the research and analysis of regional economic conditions and advises internal Federal Reserve Bank leadership in this area.

Wendy Jewell, president of the Robins School’s new MBA alumni organization, said that having Macheras speak in January was a perfect way to initiate the organization.

“Most of us take the first of the year to assess where we've been and look toward the future, so the society decided to have the economic breakfast as an annual event to start the year,” she said. “Dr. Macheras provided a great perspective on where the economy has been locally as well as nationally and the outlook is not as grim as the mass media often portrays."

Macheras highlighted positive trends on the national level, including job losses tapering off, consumer spending strengthening, global reinforcing recovery, and finally housing and residential in recovery.

She also presented risks to recovery including the fact that unemployment continues to linger, commercial real estate continues to drag, while state and local revenue are crunched and unforeseen global events.

On the local level, Macheras recognized Virginia as being in a much better position than the rest of the country with a 6.6% unemployment rate and leading the country in December with 9,500 new jobs.

Concluding her presentation, Macheras stated, “The nation and the Commonwealth suffered through one of the worst years in our post-war economic history. The positive trends discussed should carry forward into 2010 as the recovery becomes more well established, with job losses abating and eventually turning to net job creation.”

Those who attended were invited to submit predictions of where the Dow will close on December 31, 2010. The winner will be recognized at the next Alumni MBA Society Economic Breakfast in January 2011.