Center for Economic Research serves information needs of businesses, government

Posted September 22, 2015

The Center for Economic Research, perhaps little known to students on the UW-River Falls campus, has been serving the information needs of St. Croix Valley businesses and local government for about a decade.

The center, part of the College of Business and Economics (CBE), is located in South Hall. Some students who are not in the CBE had no idea that the Center for Economic Research exists.

“I am not sure what that is? I did not even know it was a thing,” said elementary education major Amanda Gemar.

However, to local business leaders, the center is very beneficial.

Logan Kelly, an assistant professor in the Department of Economics, has been the director of the Center for Economic Research since 2010 and said the center has been around for about 10 years.

According to the UWRF website, the mission of the Center for Economic Research is to contribute to the goals of the CBE and the University by encouraging all areas of economic research and promoting economic development in the Upper Midwest.

One of the services that the center provides is an online aggregator of data that is collected from other sources such as banks and local businesses.

“We put together a fairly extensive dashboard of economic indicators that comes out monthly for the region,” Kelly said. “It’s easy to find national data, but finding data that really focuses on a region can be a little difficult, so we make it accessible for those who don’t look through the Bureau of Labor Statistics every day.”

Data in the dashboard ranges from the employment level and unemployment rate of the St. Croix Valley to milk and crop prices in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Also offered is housing market data. The dashboard can be accessed by anyone who has a computer.

The data that the center produces is used by an array of people such economic development corporations, local bankers that evaluate economic conditions, and local business leaders. The City of River Falls has contacted Kelly for local employment data.

Kelly may be the director of the center, but there is simply too much work to be done for just one person. He usually has an undergraduate or graduate student assisting him each semester.

“Students are involved in our consulting projects, both at the graduate and undergraduate level,” Kelly said.

Kelly mentioned that currently two graduate students are working on project for the city of New Richmond and how it can react to the new St. Croix bridge going in, and what possible issues might arise, particularly in the housing market.

The center also provides consulting services for a fee.

The center is self-funded through sponsorships from other organizations or through the consulting projects.