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2009 Regents Business Symposium Speakers Optimistic About Economic Recovery

On Friday, November 6, the Saint Peter’s College Board of Regents welcomed more than 350 members of the region’s business community to their 38th Annual Regents Business Symposium at the Jersey City Hyatt Regency on the Hudson. The College’s signature annual event, this forum is designed to inspire and educate an audience of all ages, professions and industries regarding business trends, challenges and best practices. The symposium also serves as a fundraising opportunity for scholarship support, among other College endeavors.

This year, the Board of Regents hosted four speakers to address their audience, including Byron Pitts, Senior National Correspondent and Contributing Correspondent for 60 Minutes; Kathleen Fitzgerald, Executive Director of Communications and Chief Communications Officer for KPMG LLP; and P. Brett Hammond, Managing Director and Chief Investment Strategist for TIAA-CREF. Ali Velshi, CNN’s Chief Business Correspondent and host of Your $$$$$, delivered the keynote address.

With the theme Restoring Confidence: From Crisis to Recovery, this year’s forum provided the opportunity for these financial and economic experts to share their personal experiences resulting from coping with the recession, and their practical solutions to lead the U.S. economy on the road to recovery. The speakers each addressed the topic of the economy with optimism; however, they were all in agreement that time will play a key role in allowing the country to overcome its shortfalls.

Mr. Pitts, who opened the Regents Business Symposium, discussed the good and evil he has witnessed throughout his career as a journalist. He believes that objective journalism is alive and well, yet is wary about outlets pretending to be “journalistic” and their ability to sway public opinion. Although hopeful about the future of the economy, Mr. Pitts expressed his view that the United States still has not recovered from the 9/11 attacks, and that this time period is symbolic of how long it will actually take for the country to rebound from the recession.

Ms. Fitzgerald, a graduate of Saint Peter’s College Class of 1971, addressed previous recession trends, as well as two key lessons she expects will be learned from the current recession: the first, that it is necessary to go back to the basics of business, such as having a risk management plan in place; the second, that trust and confidence is critical for businesses and will need to be restored, which can be done through greater transparency and the implementation of a strong, ethical business culture. Like Mr. Pitts, Ms. Fitzgerald sees the recovery process taking longer than expected, but believes the state of the economy has improved slightly.

Mr. Hammond mentioned that while the recession has been a wake-up call for the U.S. population to save their money rather than spend it, this practice is affecting the economy directly. He encouraged the audience to think “long-term” regarding their money, and to invest in a diversified portfolio now they will see prosper over the next five to twenty years. According to Mr. Hammond, it’s difficult to tell if Congress’ current stimulus bill, which includes the “Cash for Clunkers” and first-time homebuyers tax credit plan, will be enough to help the country’s deficits; they will “attempt to trim and stuff it until they get it right.”

Keynote speaker Mr. Velshi agreed with Mr. Hammond that it’s “fashionable to be saving… and unfashionable to conspicuously spend.” Mr. Velshi also mentioned, “Two-thirds of the economy comes out of people’s pockets. When times get tough, people pull back.” As the host for CNN’s business news show Your $$$$$, Mr. Velshi has traveled across the country to find out how people view the current recession. The result, Velshi says, is “an unhealthy hatred for Corporate America and Wall Street;” on the upside, this has caused people to take a new control over the current situation by returning to their places of worship because they are looking to “trust a higher power.”

At the conclusion of the four-hour seminar, Saint Peter’s College President Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D. was pleased to note that a record number of sponsorships totaling $98,000 supported this year’s Regents Business Symposium.