AUBER-NABE Relationship Brings Regional Economics to National Policy Debate, Connects Economists

by Shannon Furniss

It was shortly after President Donald Trump was elected, and the AUBER panel presenting at the 2017 National Association for Business Economics (NABE) conference in Washington, D.C. had the full attention of the group of attendees. Previous speakers had addressed the economic implications of the Trump Administration, but until AUBER's presentation, nobody had talked about the impacts for, say, Indiana or West Virginia.

Bringing the regional economic outlook to NABE is highly valuable to the 24,000+ members and friends - business economists, corporate strategists, policymakers, and analysts - that make up the organization, according to Stuart Mackintosh, president of NABE. The Annual NABE Economic Policy Conference usually has about 500 attendees. The conference provides AUBER members the opportunity to hear the latest on national economic policy and network with people the Financial Times calls "the largest group of U.S. corporate economists." It also coincides with AUBER's spring board meeting. Every year, AUBER cosponsors the NABE conference.

This year's AUBER panel, "State of States in the Trump Era," included presentations from Tim Slaper, director of Economic Analysis at Indiana University's Indiana Business Research Center, and John Deskins, director of West Virginia University's Bureau of Business and Economic Research. Sean Snaith, director at the Institute for Economic Competitiveness at University of Central Florida, chaired the session.

"AUBER's co-sponsorship of the NABE Economic Policy Conference is a hugely beneficial longstanding relationship," Mackintosh said. "NABE members get to understand more regional developments in the states. AUBER members bring their critical and analytical voices to ongoing debates over national policy shifts, challenges, and opportunities. NABE-AUBER cooperation is enduring and mutually productive. I look forward to its continued success."

According to AUBER President Bruce Kellison, "AUBER's relationship with NABE is very rewarding for our organization. It's great to be linked with one of the nation's leading professional economics associations. But the NABE Spring Policy conference that AUBER co-sponsors is especially useful for the AUBER members who attend. It's a chance every year to be updated on the national economic policy environment, macroeconomic conditions, monetary policy, and trade issues, in many cases, by policymakers themselves." Kellison is the director at the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Texas - Austin.

Each year, the NABE conference attracts prominent speakers. Three years ago, Ben Bernanke, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, was the featured speaker. In the late 80s, Milton Friedman, an avid supporter of free markets who was awarded the 1976 Nobel Prize for Economics, addressed NABE. An impressive number of renowned economists have taken part in the NABE conferences since the organization began in 1959. In fact, Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, is among the past presidents of NABE.

Connecting Academic Economists and Corporate Economists

Longtime AUBER member Paul Polzin, former director of the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research and AUBER president in 2006, notes that NABE conferences have always been of great value to him. Polzin's first NABE conference was in 1977, and he remembers speakers from the Clinton Administration and the Bush Administration, but he missed the conference featuring speakers from the Obama Administration because he had just retired.

Since the early 2000s, AUBER has held its spring board meeting in conjunction with the NABE conference. This allows the board to meet and attend the conference in Washington, D.C., which Polzin says has been a good strategy for AUBER. In addition, NABE conferences include corporate economists and academic economists. "The level of stuffiness isn't quite as high as at some academic conferences," Polzin said with a laugh.

Before the 2000s, AUBER used to have two conferences - spring and fall - at member universities. When the spring conference began to strain AUBER's budget, the group decided to cancel it and put the emphasis on the fall conference, but they still wanted to continue with the spring board meeting. That's when center directors Polzin, Keith Schwer, Marshall Vest, Tim Hogan, Rich Wobbekind, and other AUBER members who were active in NABE started exploring the possibilities.

The timing was perfect, according to Wobbekind, the executive director of the Business Research Division at the University of Colorado and president of NABE from 2010-2011. "NABE had not been heavily involved in universities and wanted to expand into the education space and engage more young economists." They also wanted to bring regional economics into roundtable conversations and needed more sponsors. Part of the reason Wobbekind was asked to run for the NABE presidency was his background in academia, he said. NABE began to develop educational and career development opportunities, and continues to do so today, with the Certified Business Economist program in high demand.

A number of AUBER members have served on the NABE board, which continues to cement the relationship, Wobbekind said.

Download the Indiana presentation here and the West Virginia presentation here.