NY Federal Reserve President Visits Lehman for a ‘Fireside Chat’ on the Economy

William Dudley, the President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Returning to the Bronx for the first time since 2011, Federal Reserve Bank of New York President and Chief Executive Officer William Dudley detected something that had been missing from the borough on his previous visit: a sense of optimism. Dudley addressed Lehman College students in an intimate “fireside chat” that included discussion about the labor market, overall fiscal policy and the economic future of the Bronx.

Professor Dene Hurley, the former Chair of the Department of Economics and Business, and now Interim Associate Dean of the Lehman School of Natural and Social Sciences, followed the chairman’s opening remarks with a Q&A session and the chat concluded with questions to Dudley from the capacity crowd at the Speech and Theater building’s student experimental theater.

Several Lehman business majors peppered the president with sometimes-tough questions about the financial crisis, the state of the economy and complex policy issues.

“I see the glass as being at least half full,” said Dudley. “The economy has been growing more quickly over the last few quarters. I welcome the opportunity to raise interest rates. (Interest rates have remained at nearly 0%.) Hopefully in 2015.”

Dudley didn’t sugarcoat the state of affairs in Bronx County, acknowledging it as the poorest of the five boroughs, with the highest unemployment rate. But he also said that the Bronx had outstripped the rest of the city in recent employment growth. He extolled the boroughs virtues such as the low-cost of starting a business, it’s proximity to Manhattan and its excellent educational facilities like Lehman.

Before arriving at Lehman, Dudley visited with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., (a Lehman alumnus) officials at Montefiore hospital, OnForce Solar, the largest maker of solar panels in the city, and WHEDco, a community development group in the South Bronx. He emphasized that one of the biggest challenges facing small business startups in the Bronx is obtaining credit but is hopeful that as the economy improves, banks will begin to ease credit standards.

Dudley recommended that business students focus on developing technology skills and take quantitative classes like calculus and statistics and stressed the importance of getting internships as key to strong resume building. When asked by Prof. Hurley about how the role of the Fed has changed since the great recession, Dudley maintained that the organization had become more transparent and had developed new tools like quantitative easing to keep interest rates low.

Lehman students asked Dudley questions about whether the financial crisis was primarily caused by greed, if the Fed was a “revolving door” to private sector jobs for its employees, and if quantitative easing actually made the economy weaker—not stronger. The president respectfully disagreed with some of the questions, but praised the students for their economic savvy and the intelligence of their queries.

“Hopefully by the time you graduate, the labor market will be better than it is today,” the president told students

He also said that it’s an exciting time for aspiring economists.

“We’re living through an incredible time in history,” he said about his time at the Fed. “We’ve been through the worst time economically since the 1930s and done all these innovative things. Sometimes I wish it were more boring.”