PETALUMA – A reality check is in store for public and private sectors in the North Bay at the upcoming 2011 Sonoma State University Economic Outlook Conference.

Titled “The Public Sector: Opportunities and Realities,” the event features SSU Economics Department chair Rob Eyler’s economic analysis and forecast as well as a hard look at looming pension and budget issues.

Stanford Professor Joe Nation, whose recent study estimated a state public employee pension fund shortfall of $200 billion, will be a featured speaker.

“The conference goal is threefold,” said Dr. Eyler. “First, it’ll provide perspectives on our public sector finances that people haven’t been exposed to before.”

Secondly, he said, it’ll offer potential solutions from people other than elected officials – business people who see intertwined budget and pension issues as business challenges.

“And finally, the conference will provide some sanguine news about our economy and some ways to help shape strategic planning efforts for local businesses in light of regional, state, national and global economies,” said Dr. Eyler.

The public sector will be represented by Matthew Hymel, county administrator for Marin County, Nancy Watt, Napa County executive officer, and Sonoma County administrator Veronica Ferguson.

“That panel will be fascinating because it will take an academic perspective on the issues our public sector finances face and then provide real-world solutions that are in motion in our major counties here,” he said.

“Local governments are not going away; they’re going to face some serious tests. We need more local partnership and regionality where we can get it. There may be a collaborative solution to our pension issues through partnerships between the financial and public sectors of our economy.”

The general tone of the conference, he said, will be finding opportunity in challenges on the part of the public sector, with the end goal of serving the people.

The event, co-produced by the North Bay Business Journal and SSU, will be held at the Sheraton, Petaluma on Feb. 24 from 7:30 to noon. To register, phone 707-521-5254 or register online by clicking here.