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Business North - The Daily Briefing - Business Newspaper Online
New effort will track, share region's economic trends
PHOTO: Steve Burgess, CEO of National Bank of Commerce, on Monday unveiled the Regional Economic Indicators Forum.
Region-wide economic indicators soon will be available as the result of a broad partnership created by National Bank of Commerce.
Data will be collected and analyzed by three Twin Ports universities and released twice-yearly at breakfast forums that will feature a major keynote speaker. The first, scheduled at 7 a.m. on March 25 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, will include an address by Fed Regional Economist Toby Madden.
“Since a major goal of the Regional Economic Indicators Forum is to foster collaboration among our region’s businesses and other leaders to enhance prosperity, we believe these twice yearly gatherings will quickly become don’t-miss events on everyone’s calendars,” Steve Burgess, CEO of National Bank of Commerce, said in a Monday announcement.
Specific economic indicators to be analyzed will include:
• Regional business confidence
• Regional consumer confidence
• Demographic trends
• Labor force employment and unemployment trends
• Economic activity in key local industry sectors
• Real estate, housing and interest rate trends
• Equities performance by companies of local interest
National Bank of Commerce is coordinating and funding the ongoing research, which is being conducted by experts from the College of St. Scholastica, University of Minnesota Duluth and University of Wisconsin-Superior.
“The Regional Economic Indicators Forums are the first of this scope in the Northland to provide decision makers with solid, up-to-date information for their use in strategic planning, expansion and hiring considerations, and more,” Burgess said. “The greatest benefit is that by receiving new information every six months, companies will be able to more confidently consider new opportunities while also tracking this region’s progress compared to other regions of the country.”
Data will be collected in Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, Pine and St. Louis counties in Minnesota and Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Sawyer and Washburn in Wisconsin, providing a broad picture of the entire region, said James Skurla, director of UMD’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
In addition to providing information for business owners and economic developers, “This will be a great opportunity for students,” who will perform some of the research, said Jerry Hembd, Ph.D., UWS professor in the Department of Business and Economics.
It also will help to highlight employment opportunities for young college students, said Robert Hoffman, Ph.D., professor of economics in The College of St. Scholastica School of Business and Technology.
Burgess, who launched a smaller but similar project while employed in La Crosse, has been developing NBC’s program for several months, meeting personally with college presidents and chancellors to gain their support for a two-state collaboration.
Acquiring granular data can be a challenge, said Skurla, who previously helped prepare the Duluth Business Index. Contributing to its demise was the establishment of storefronts by corporate big box retailers. Unlike local store owners, they closely guarded their sales and financial information and declined to participate.
The new index will use information obtained largely from home-grown firms and, on the micro level, all data will be held in strict confidence, Burgess said. It will not be distinguishable when released to the public as part of the broader statistical analysis.
College and university experts will help interpret the data, and the information will be made available on a web site. In addition to Skurla, Hoffman and Hembd, they will include Anthony Barrett, Ph.D., and Jennifer Pilon, MA, assistant professor in the School of Business and Technology, both of The College of St. Scholastica; and Zamira S. Simkins, Ph.D., professor in the UWS Department of Business and Economics.
Additional resources are being provided by the UMD Center for Economic Development, the UW-Superior Small Business Development Center, the Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX), the Development Association of Superior-Douglas County and BusinessNorth.
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