“Who said economics is boring?” Dr. James Kurre, associate professor of economics at Penn State Behrend, yells from the front car of the Ravine Flyer II roller coaster at Erie’s Waldameer Park, the perfect photo-op for illustrating an economy's characteristic uncertainties.
Dr. James Kurre charts the ups and downs of the Erie economy with the help of student research assistants like Travis Yates '12 M.B.A., in front, and Justin Brunot '12.
Kurre and two student research assistants are clearly having a good time—laughing, screaming, and pumping their fists in the air. Even when the ride ends and his feet are back on solid ground, Kurre’s still amused. “Seriously, economics is fun when it’s hands-on,” he assures.
By pursing undergraduate research with the Economic Research Institute of Erie (E.R.I.E.), an applied research unit of the college’s Sam and Irene Black School of Business, Kurre’s economics students have the opportunity to analyze up-and-down economic data and create forecasts that Erie businesses and leaders will use to plan for planning purposes.
E.R.I.E., under the direction of Kurre, has identified a set of eight variables— known as the E.R.I.E. Leading Index (ELI)—that can be used to help forecast the economic future of the Erie area. No single variable alone tells the whole tale, but taken together and with the correct weights applied, these eight indicators can give Erie leaders an eight-month “heads up” on whether they need to brace for a downturn or might enjoy a steady climb upward.
Area leaders, like Marquette Savings Bank CEO Michael Edwards, say they find E.R.I.E.’s research valuable. “The more information we have to forecast where the local economy is headed and where we are in the cycle, the better we can position our business to withstand a turbulent economic period," he notes.
The economics students who help collect, analyze, interpret, and disseminate the data gain practical experience they will take with them into the workplace.
“Working on real projects through E.R.I.E. greatly expanded the skills I learned while at Penn State Behrend,” said Justin Brunot, a senior who will graduate next month with a B.S. in business economics. “I have experience working with many more data sources, writing reports, and helping prepare presentations for the local community.”
Interested in E.R.I.E.? Visit behrend.psu.edu/eriedata for more information.