Sep 30, 2013

UT Event to Show How CEOs See Future

By Reihaneh Hajibeigi
For Reporting Texas

Organizers of an economic forecasting event associated with the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business hope to focus on the concrete — jobs — and avoid lofty economic theory.

Rather than economists, Texas CEO publisher and event organizer Pat Niekamp said she wanted “boots on the ground” Texas chief executive officers to discuss the economic issues they face in the context of their own businesses.

As for the likelihood of an economic rebound implied by the event title, “Economic Forecast 2014: Year of the Rebound?” Niekamp said she believes Congress will do what’s necessary to avoid a government shutdown and debt default, even if the solution arrives at the last minute.

“Congress obviously plays a big role in the economy, but businesses will keep working no matter what,” Niekamp said.

The event will take place from 7 to 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, at the AT&T Executive Conference Center. Hosts are the McCombs Alumni Network, Texas CEO magazine and Texas Enterprise, a McCombs publication that reports on faculty research from departments across UT.

The Austin conference will feature CEOs Daniel Nelson of Datical, Tyson Tuttle of Silicon Laboratories and Dennis McWilliams of Apollo Endosurgery.

“The three biggest business sectors in Austin are software, hardware and biotech, so what’s better than bringing successful CEOs to discuss their businesses and what they foresee for the future?” Niekamp said.

Conferences about the economy are usually led by economists who see the issues from “30,000 miles above us,” Niekamp said. Not only do the CEOs as panelists set the conference apart from other symposiums around the nation, but they also will make the event accessible to students of all majors, she said.

“In the not-too-distant future, all students will be graduating and looking for jobs,” Niekamp said. “Everyone will be looking for what is available, and they don’t know what the future holds. This is a chance to give everyone a clue as to how the biggest business sectors in Austin are doing.”

Similar conferences will take place in Dallas and Houston featuring CEOs from those cities’ biggest business sectors. For Dallas there will be business leaders for manufacturing, retail and commercial development firms. In Houston, there will be leaders from healthcare institutions, energy and big data firms.

Jay Hartzell, chair of the finance department at the University of Texas, will moderate the Austin and Houston events. He is looking forward to hearing from the CEOs and getting their perspective on the road ahead, Hartzell said.

“The panelists make important decisions for their respective organizations, so this event provides a great opportunity to hear how these leaders are thinking about their future,” Hartzell said.

Event organizers hope attendees will walk away with some useful knowledge about the economic outlook and will be able to better understand how their future will be shaped by these coming changes.

Silicon Labs CEO Tuttle said via a company spokesman that the McCombs forecast is a premier venue for Austin-area business leaders to share their views on the state and national economies, as well as major industry and technology trends that are transforming how we live, work and communicate.

“About 50 percent of Silicon Labs’ new hires are new college graduates,” Tuttle said in a statement. “While no one in the industry, government or academics has a crystal ball illuminating 2014 and beyond, I’m confident this panel will provide valuable insights into the economic and market trends that are pointing to a promising year ahead.”

The event is free for students, faculty and staff, but attendees who purchase a $35 ticket will be served breakfast. Proceeds will cover the costs of the event. The event has a 300-person capacity, and as of Sept. 30, only 50 tickets were left.