by Colton Campbell

A group of people at the University of West Georgia combine their superpowers for the greater good.

No, it’s not the Avengers or the Justice League. Instead, it’s a group of economists.

The Center for Business and Economics Research in the Richards College of Business is committed to contributing to the understanding of economic and demographic issues in the west Georgia region and across the state.

Dr. William "Joey" Smith
Dr. William "Joey" Smith

To accomplish that mission, the center’s director – Dr. Hilde Patron, a professor of economics – leverages the expertise of the Department of Economics’ dozen professors and lecturers to collect information, provide technical expertise and analyze research for a diverse constituency.

“In our department, we have a wide variety of specialties represented,” Patron said. “If there’s a project that comes in, we’ll know who would be the best person on our roster to either do the work or oversee the work. We have faculty members who are interested in or have expertise on sports economics, health care economics, tax policy and business forecasting, among many other topics that we can pull from.”

One of the key constituencies aided by the CBER’s efforts are governmental entities, including the Georgia Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. Dr. William “Joey” Smith, chair of the Department of Economics, said CBER’s goal when working with public agencies is to ensure decision-makers have the best information they can possibly have.

“We aim to provide good information that leaders of businesses or the state government can use to make informed decisions,” Smith said. “When we provide research to the state, we do so in a completely non-partisan way. We’re not in the business of trying to promote anything other than good decision-making. In today’s world, that’s an incredibly worthwhile contribution.”

Recent projects taken on by the CBER include the economic contribution of Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Coweta County, the economic effect of the extension of the Transco gas pipeline through eight Georgia counties, and the estimation of the fiscal impact of various proposed measures for the Georgia State Senate.

“We want to ensure UWG is involved in the process and that we’re using talents here on campus that have expertise in the area of tax analysis, for instance, to provide good information to those people who are making legislative decisions on taxes,” Smith said.

The center focuses its efforts on a six-county region in west Georgia encompassing Carroll, Coweta, Douglas, Haralson, Paulding and Polk counties, with Smith and Patron frequently traveling to the different counties for speaking engagements on the counties’ specific outlooks.

“We’re always open to presenting information, updating numbers and tailoring them to the county we’re presenting in,” Smith said. “We keep our fingers on the pulses of these communities so we can understand the challenges and opportunities they’re facing.”

The CBER also publishes a regional quarterly update, conducts a forecasting breakfast each fall, and sponsors the SAS Analytics Summit each spring.

The Economic Forecast Breakfast – now in its 23rd year – sells out to capacity each year, Smith said. The SAS Analytics Summit brings together potential employers who use data and analytics with students who are already doing research using data and analytics.

The center’s work can also be utilized internally at the university, with economic contribution studies conducted for Dine West – the university’s dining enterprise – and UWG Newnan.

While the CBER collaborates often with the Department of Economics, as one might expect, the center is working now to branch out into different departments in the Richards College of Business.

“We’re working to identify colleagues in our sister departments who are interested in doing work for the community while optimizing their talents in their chosen fields,” Patron said. “For example, expertise in marketing is a trait many of our clients would like to have on their side, so we’re working to bridge that gap and bring our colleagues into the center to make our offerings more well-rounded and comprehensive.”

For more information on UWG’s CBER, visit www.westga.edu/~cber or call 678-839-5036.

Photography by Steven Broome

Posted on July 11, 2019