The Bureau of Business and Economic Research turns in 70 years of Research and Public Service to New Mexico
Last year was a milestone for the Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) as it turned 70 years old in July. BBER’s main priorities have always been: to collect and assemble social and economic data (the basics of research and analysis); to provide an accurate picture of social and economic conditions in New Mexico to further the understanding of the state economy; and to disseminate information and research to inform policy making decisions in order to ensure a better tomorrow for all New Mexicans. Additionally, over the years the Bureau has gained a reputation for assisting people who are looking for New Mexico-specific data and analysis. The Bureau is unique in that since its inception it has balanced contract research and public service.
The motivation for the founding of the Bureau in June 1945 was a response to two major concerns with the backdrop of the Great Depression and the 1940’s wartime economy: (1) New Mexico’s economy was lagging poorly having the highest unemployment rate of any state in 1940. With the end of World War II and sharp drops in military spending expected, the state economy would resume its poor performance, and (2) the University of New Mexico wanted to define for itself a significant role in providing community services and leadership (New Mexico Business Report Vol. 15 No 10 Nov 1994 Brian McDonald.) After seventy years much has changed economically and socially, however, the tracking and charting of the state’s economy and providing an important community service to the general public remains at the core of BBER’s mission. In fact, as the economy has been through various ups and downs it seems that the Bureau’s mission is more critical today than ever.
Over the years BBER has taken on many projects that influenced policy, planning, and economic development. One such project was a report on financing the unemployment system in NM completed in 1952 for the NM Employment Security Commission. In 1994 Brian McDonald noted “projects such as the study of the New Mexico tax burden for the Legislative Finance Committee, and AFDC caseload forecasting model for the New Mexico Human Services Department…” From 2004 to 2007 BBER published several reports on the Santa Fe Living Wage Studies. More recently BBER has done a series of reports on local economic development for New Mexico Main Street program for the NM Economic Development Department. There have also been numerous economic impact reports ranging from the importance of the Albuquerque Airport in the local economy to the Creative Economy and the impact of UNM Health Sciences Center. In the past year BBER published a survey and analysis on work-life of the UNM faculty, research on a modeling tool to be used in evaluating gross receipts tax, and several reports for Main Street communities. Much of this research is available to the public. In reviewing the timeline of activities at the Bureau one finds an amazing amount of impact this small UNM Bureau has had over the years.
BBER also provides training to various communities throughout the state in the form of presentations and conferences. The first NM Data Users Conference was held in 1998 just prior to the 2000 Census. This year, the 17th annual conference was attended by about 170 people. Of note, the director of the US Census Bureau, John Thompson was the keynote speaker during the plenary session. Every year this conference is a rewarding experience as speakers from the Census Bureau and local data experts share their expertise and enthusiasm with professionals across the state. The conference is also part of meeting the criteria of being a partner in the Census State Data Center program. BBER also supplies speakers on economic and census data topics for other conferences and trainings.
As a unit within the University of New Mexico, BBER has had lots of talented staff and student employees over the years, many of whom have not only been a mainstay of providing excellent talent for BBER projects, but who are now doing excellent work in various capacities throughout New Mexico. In BBER’s long and distinguished history, the Bureau has had seven directors who have navigated the various issues of the day and kept true to the needs of New Mexico.
Directors of BBER
While it’s good to reflect on the last 70 years, looking forward the Bureau’s outlook is very optimistic. As New Mexico recovers from the Great Recession, the Bureau continues to publish the New Mexico Business report and covers the most current economic activities in the FOR-UNM Bulletin, and provides a quarterly economic forecast for subscribers. BBER has moved into the era of the internet and provides content via our website and links to topical events and data releases on our Facebook page. The Bureau has launched a blog with the goal of providing timely, data-oriented insights on the NM economy and policy questions. While the bureau still maintains an extensive physical library, we now provide data services to our clients from a large socioeconomic database. The Bureau continues to provide extensive pro-bono and contract research and analysis services to our customers. Through these efforts, BBER continues to advance the public service and educational missions of the University of New Mexico and contributes to the economic well-being of New Mexico residents.