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Student Reflects on High-profile Economics Presentation

Regional Economic Indicators Forum (REIF) logo
February 16, 2021

The Regional Economic Indicators Forum Goes Virtual.

Twice a year—in the fall and spring—a Labovitz School of Business and Economics (LSBE) student has presented information on the local economy to a crowd of between 200 and 300 regional  business people, government officials, and other students, faculty, and staff from our area’s colleges. The students are part of the Regional Economic Indicators Forum (REIF), which, prior to COVID-19, was held at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC).

This past fall, LSBE student Nathan Brand videotaped his presentation that was shared via YouTube as part of a virtual REIF event—the 16th biannual forum. Brand and students from the University of Wisconsin Superior and the College of St. Scholastica shared their in-depth research of the region’s economic indicators along with featured keynote speaker Ron Wirtz, Director of Regional Outreach at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

UMD LSBE student Nathan Brand

Nathan Brand

“I think the most interesting finding I discovered was that a decrease in the unemployment rate can be explained by discouraged workers quitting their job search, which, therefore, decreases the labor force,” Brand, a senior double majoring in Economics and Financial Markets said about his research.

“In terms of presenting, I learned that even when you have the ability to record it multiple times from the comfort of your own home, something will go wrong. I recorded it about 20 times, and each time I would watch it back and redo it.”

Brand has attended three previous REIFs in person before being tapped to be a presenter.

“I was disappointed not being able to present live. However, while I was looking forward to the crowd at the DECC event, the inability to present live allowed me the opportunity to perfect my presentation in the videotaping of it.”

The REIF is one of the many projects of LSBE’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER). The student presenters are undergraduate research assistants who work at the BBER.

“I like that the majority of the work I have done is locally focused,” said Brand, who has been employed at the BBER since 2018 about his work there. “Much of the time, economics is associated with the stock market, global trade, or some high caliber topic. While I find these fascinating and extremely important, it’s also important to remember that economics expands beyond these and is visible in every community and affects every small business.”

Though some people may think that economics is boring, Brand wants people to know that it does hold excitement by helping to resolve issues that may seem out of reach.

“Economics allows societal questions to be answered and problems to be solved. I often find myself curious about how things work and why people behave the way they do. Economics allows complex problems to be simplified and explained in a quantitative manner.”

He encourages other students to seek out such presentation opportunities where they can.

“It’s great experience actually presenting to a large crowd instead of just a class. It’s much more indicative of the real world; if you are asked to do a presentation you won’t be given a rubric, so being confident in how to structure and deliver your research is essential.”

The next REIF is scheduled for April 6 and features the topic of Driving Entrepreneurship and Innovation with keynote speakers Neela Mollgaard, executive director of Launch Minnesota and Aaron Hagar, VP entrepreneurship and innovation at Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

The virtual presentation will begin at 8:00 a.m. with the prerecorded student presentations starting at 9:00 a.m. Haakan Thorsgard, an LSBE senior Economics major and BBER employee since May, will be providing the current research for the REIF region.

The event is free, but registration is required to receive the Zoom link. You can register here.

More information about the REIF and its history can be found on the National Bank of Commerce’s website. The bank was the REIF’s founding sponsor, and it continues to be the catalyst behind the biannual event.

Learn more about LSBE's Bureau of Business and Economic Research.