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his first few years as director, Kimbell worked to get the Forecast
online, an ambitious task at a time when people were still using
large, mainframe computers. In 1978, he acquired a personal computer
and began to wean the staff away from depending on Data Resources
Incorporated, a mainframe system that furnished time-shared access
to specialized databases on California and the United States. As
a result, the Forecast staff was able to make its U.S. forecast
available online in the late '70s and was downloading stock market
data in the mid-'80s.
were certainly ahead of our time in California," says Kimbell, who
won the Sterling Prize in 1988 for the most accurate forecast of
the U.S. economy. "In some sense, what you see now as routine was
nothing new to us 20 years ago. We were very advanced in terms of
the technology of forecasting, and I think that's been very important."
Gibson, chief economist for the California Department of Finance,
says he started attending the Anderson Forecast's conferences during
Kimbell's early days as director. "Here in Sacramento, the Forecast
has a very unique position, not only for us but also for our counterparts
in the Legislative Analyst's Office," Gibson says. "It's very well-respected
in the Legislature and by the governor because it's sort of a disinterested
third party. Often, when we present a forecast, the first question
we're asked is, ‘What does UCLA say?' "
1990, Kimbell took a two-year leave of absence to become director
of macroeconometric forecasting for the WEFA Group in Pennsylvania.
Taking his place as director of the BFP was young David Hensley
M.A. '84, Ph.D. '89, who had been serving as director of California
forecasting since 1987. Hensley clearly recalls the awkwardness
of being in a position usually reserved for faculty members.
situation was frankly quite tenuous, and I was actually made acting
director," he says. "I don't think it was entirely obvious what
they were going to do with the forecast when Larry left, or whether
I would be in that position for very long."
opinion is that some people had problems with the nature of the
forecast activity itself; that they viewed the BFP's research as
applied, not academic. "I suspect that people looked at us and wondered
why, exactly, is the university doing this? And if it's that successful,
maybe it should be done outside of the university," Hensley says.
any fears the administration had were eased when Hensley and his
staff attracted attention for accurately predicting the recession
of the early '90s. The Forecast maintained that California was a
costly place to do business for several reasons: It was highly regulated,
housing was too expensive for most people and there was slow migration
into the state. Then when the recession actually occurred, the Forecast
took a stronger position on the aerospace and defense downturn than