By Alex Castillo

Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce

The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Aera Energy will present an economic update for Santa Barbara County from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10, in Severson Theatre at Hancock College, 800 S. College Drive in Santa Maria.

Admission is free, but reservations are required.

Melissa James, CEO of regional program The Hourglass Project will give a preview of the program’s recently developed jobs action plan for the Central Coast region, and Chris Thornberg of Beacon Economics will unveil a report about California’s future need for both renewable and petroleum-based fuels.

Presentations by James and Thornberg will be followed by a question-and-answer session and a reception.

James is a community leader who believes innovative approaches and results-oriented coalitions are critical to moving the Central Coast forward. A Cal Poly graduate and native of Sacramento, she has a background in public relations, strategic communications, public policy and economic development, with a record of building effective coalitions.

Her work at the Hourglass Project will focus on building regional collaboration to increase high-quality jobs across the Central Coast.

Thornberg founded Beacon Economics LLC in 2006. Under his leadership the firm has become one of the most respected research organizations in California, serving public and private clients across the U.S. 

In 2015, he also became director of the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development.

An expert in economic and revenue forecasting, regional economics, and labor and real estate markets, he has consulted for private industry, cities, counties and public agencies throughout California and nationally.

Recent projects include an analysis of minimum wage programs for Los Angeles; housing and rent control studies for the California Apartment Association; recession recovery plan for San Francisco city and county; and economic impact studies for the 2024 Los Angeles Olympic Games Committee and the University of Southern California.

Thornberg became nationally known for forecasting the subprime mortgage market crash that began in 2007, and he was one of a few economists on record to predict the global economic recession that followed.

For more about the event and to register, visit