by Robert Bell
Posted 3/29/2010 12:00 am
Updated 12 months ago
Regarding the economy in the last couple of years, Kathy Deck mentioned an ancient purportedly Chinese proverb, as much blessing as curse: "May you live in interesting times."
For an economist, "interesting" might be a generously vague adjective for describing the economic environment of 2008 to present day. Without a doubt, the recession and its effects are of the utmost interest to those who are charged with making sense of markets.
As director of the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Deck does just that. She crunches numbers, monitors trends and studies historical data to help Arkansas' business and community leaders make informed decisions.
"I think that the past couple of years have been a time when it was really possible for the folks with good information to make good decisions and shelter themselves somewhat from the downturn," she said. "And, of course, it's my job to get that good information out there."
Deck started as a research associate at the center in 2001, advanced to associate director and, in 2007, was appointed director. Before moving to Arkansas, she worked for the attorney general in New Mexico, studying mergers and acquisitions and determining whether they would benefit consumers or harm them.
"It gave me my first real experience with looking very deeply at industry market structure," she said. "And that's really been my love since then: to understand how a particular industry works and how it affects, all the way up and down the line, the folks who are involved with it."
At the request of businesses, cities and other organizations, Deck and her colleagues at CBER collect information and refine it into reports on the economic effects of everything from the Fayetteville Shale Play to the Fayetteville smoking ban.
One of the most widely read of those studies is the Skyline Report, a quarterly analysis of the commercial and residential real estate markets in Benton and Washington counties that is commissioned by Arvest Bank Group Inc. of Fayetteville.
"Having those kinds of information out there for decision makers meant they knew the real numbers and what the real implications were in terms of the kinds of business decisions they were going to make," Deck said. "So hopefully it did mean the real estate downturn was actually less dramatic than it would have been otherwise, because we had that information out there."
Deck is probably one of the most-quoted economists in the state. Certainly Arkansas Business has turned to her as a source for many stories.
Deck also hosts and speaks at CBER's quarterly business analysis breakfasts and the annual Business Forecast luncheon, presented by the Sam M. Walton College of Business. These events give Deck an opportunity to share her organization's findings with scores of the most influential people in the state.
"I want to continue getting good information out to folks," she said. "That's always going to be a need in the community. And I really have been fortunate to find a career to which I am very well suited."