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Economic Experts to Offer Forecasts for 2024 at Annual USM Forum

Fri, 02/23/2024 - 09:14am | By: Van Arnold

State and national economic forecasts will be the focal point for The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) 2024 Economic Outlook Forum set for Feb. 29 on the University’s Hattiesburg campus. The forum will be held from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Trent Lott National Center.

The annual event, hosted by USM’s College of Business and Economic Development, brings together experts from banking, finance, and academia to explore a number of issues, trending data, and research related to the economic outlook for 2024. The First Bank serves as the title sponsor of the event.

“The First Bank is proud to serve as the title sponsor of this annual event and looks forward to gaining insights from the esteemed economic experts who will be speaking at the event,” said M. Ray “Hoppy” Cole Jr., President and CEO of The First Bank. “Our state and national economic outlook for 2024 is such a critical topic, and we are proud to host such an important discussion in the city of Hattiesburg, where our bank was founded.” 

Forum speakers include:

Dr. Gary A. Wagner
Acadiana Business Economist Endowed Chair
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Dr. Wagner currently holds the Acadiana Business Economist Endowed Chair at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In this role, he monitors the region’s economic environment, conducts research and analysis, and engages with external stakeholders on behalf of the Moody College of Business and university. His research interests range from regional economics to state and local public finance issues, with a particular focus on tax structures and economic development, borrowing costs and pension systems.

He has authored or coauthored more than 60 professional articles and reports and has delivered more than 300 presentations to public audiences on national and regional economic conditions. Dr. Wagner served on the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors in Arkansas from 2008-11, and he is a quarterly participant in the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Survey of Professional Forecasters, projecting national economic conditions. Dr. Wagner holds a Ph.D. in economics from West Virginia University.

His professional research has appeared in many leading economics journals, including the Journal of Urban Economics, Journal of Law and Economics, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, National Tax Journal, Economics and Politics, and Regional Science and Urban Economics. Gary is also editor-in-chief at Public Finance Review and co-editor at Contemporary Economic Policy. Prior to joining the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, he was vice president and senior regional officer for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Mr. Justin Thomas

Vice President - Regional Director

Goldman Sachs’ Asset Management Division

Mr. Thomas is a vice president and regional director in Goldman Sachs’ asset management division, with 14 years of dedicated service to the firm. Prior to his role with Goldman Sachs, he spent five years working for Van Kampen Funds.

He earned an MBA from Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management and holds the prestigious Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. He resides in Franklin, Tennessee, with his wife, Erika, and their three daughters.

“We look forward to gathering for the Economic Outlook Forum to harness the collective wisdom and expertise of our speakers to navigate the currents of uncertainty and opportunity in the economic landscape of 2024,” said Dr. Bret Becton, dean of the College of Business and Economic Development. “Through insightful analysis, trending data, and collaborative dialogue, we hope to help organizations pave the path towards informed decisions and resilient strategies in the face of dynamic challenges ahead.”

Those interested in attending the forum are asked to register online in advance. Learn more about the event and the registration link.

About The First Bancshares, Inc.
Founded in 1996, The First Bank was formed by a group of business leaders who had a vision for creating a bank that would support the communities it served and build sustainable long-term relationships with clients in those communities. Now, that dream has grown to an $8 billion asset, multi-state financial institution with operations spanning Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Georgia. As one of the largest certified Community Development Financial Institutions in the nation, The First employs over 1,000 team members in 107 full-service branches throughout the five-state region. Since 2010, the bank has been awarded over $7.2 million in grants for their investments in communities to help support economic growth and job creation. The company’s stock is traded on the NASDAQ Global Market under the symbol, FBMS. Learn more about The First Bank.