Eastern Oregon University > Academics > Economic research promises better data for rural counties

Economic research promises better data for rural counties

Economic research promises better data for rural counties 

Oct. 22, 2020 LA GRANDE, Ore. – The Rural Engagement and Vitality (REV) Center, a partnership of Eastern Oregon University and Wallowa Resources, works toward building connections between the university and community members. Recently, two professors and two students began developing one of these partnerships through Community Profiles and Economic Impact Analysis.

Faculty and students from EOU will provide socioeconomic research and analytical services for counties and communities to facilitate the understanding of current conditions and trends, support various planning efforts, and undertake economic impact analysis of specific projects or investments in the region.

REV Center Program Manager Julie Keniry said the Blues Intergovernmental Council (BIC) reached out to the REV Center about coordinating economic research in rural Oregon. This project will help the BIC understand the impacts of forest management across the Blue Mountain region, including the potential impacts of new forest plans for the three national forests in eastern Oregon. The analysis will compare the relative impacts and economic resilience across 10 counties in Oregon and four in southeast Washington, informing future forest management in the region. 

The funding for this project comes from the U.S. Forest Service and the Eastern Oregon Counties Association. Economics professors Peter Maille and Scott McConnell have taken the lead on constructing socioeconomic profiles for each county involved. 

“Communities could focus on information our analysis provides to better understand economic vulnerabilities. Some could use it to argue for forest management policies that mitigate a possible economic harm or enhance a possible benefit,” Maille said. “Our basic hope is that the communities and the Forest Service can make better decisions by having better information.” 

The grant also allows for two EOU students to work as interns and assist Maille and McConnell with the project. 

“What happens in these forests impacts the counties, and the communities and the people in them when National Forest plans shift. Access or harvest level, that can change the amount of wood product going through an economy,” Maille said. “So, what we’re trying to do is model how an economy—a given county’s economy—will respond to those kinds of changes.” 

Maille’s work on this project can be integrated into coursework for future classes. He said it will give students real-world, practical examples to work with involving economics. He hopes that this project of computing a county’s economic resilience will open the door for valuable long-term monitoring of economic change in the rural west. 

“There is always an economic analysis done as part of the forest plan, but it’s more generalized and this data will be specific to our region and even provide some detail about the impact that activities on the forest could have on smaller logging-focused communities, which normally don’t show up in high-level economic analyses,” Keniry said. 

Projects create opportunities for professors and students at EOU to work among different statewide groups. The REV Center at EOU acts as a gateway to success for businesses by supplying researchers and interns for a multitude of projects.

“It could be really valuable to communities to have this information for a lot of other reasons beyond the forest plan development,” Keniry said. “So we are looking forward to discovering what those other things might be in the future.”  

By PR Intern Emily Andrews