Cuesta College forum checks pulse of the economy

The health of the local, state and national economies will be the focus of a free Cuesta College forum today.

Mike Manchak, president and CEO of the Economic Vitality Corp. of San Luis Obispo County, will address how California’s economy will impact business growth in the county.

Erik Skinner, vice chancellor of fiscal affairs for California Community Colleges, will discuss the state’s budget and what the long-term impacts will be on education.

Bill Watkins, executive director of the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting at California Lutheran University, will discuss the national economy and how it is affecting California.

Bill Snider, a business instructor at Cuesta College and the panel moderator, said he hopes the three experts will be able to clear up some confusion about which way the economy is headed.

“We keep getting all kinds of mixed messages from Sacramento and Washington, D.C.,” Snider said.

The college’s Business Administration Department Advisory Committee is sponsoring the forum. The 22-member committee meets every semester to discuss the programs and classes it offers and to get input from local business leaders.

This year, the committee decided to invite guest speakers and to open it up to faculty, staff and the general public, Snider said.

Manchak said he was invited by the college to discuss whether the county will be a leading or lagging economic indicator, which sectors will drive the recovery and how local businesses are feeling in this recession.

“It’s very slow going, and a lot of people are frustrated at the pace the economy is recovering,’’ he said.

As well, Manchak will speak about the need for the county, which relies heavily on government sector employment, to diversify its economy.

“When the state starts cutting jobs, we feel it locally,’’ he said. “It’s an odd dichotomy. On the one hand, we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state because we have that buffer. On the other hand, by the virtue of the makeup of our local economy, will we be able to sustain it long term?”

The event from 3 to 5 p.m. will be at the Cuesta College Student Center.