Introducing the Arkansas Tech Business Index

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Organizations and individuals interested in tracking economic trends in the State of Arkansas have a new resource courtesy of the Arkansas Tech University College of Business.

The Arkansas Tech Business Index (ATBI) is a comprehensive measure that will provide a snapshot of economic activity around the Natural State. The ATBI encompasses a labor index, housing market index, construction index and retail sales index.

The April 2014 release of the ATBI, which is available at www.atu.edu/atbi, includes monthly data from 2009-2013 for 16 municipalities across Arkansas.

The website provides interested parties access to the data used to develop the ATBI. The index will be updated on a monthly basis and analysis will be provided each quarter.

“We created this index to better connect the Arkansas Tech College of Business with the state’s business community by offering them a high quality, valuable economic gauge,” said Dr. Ed Bashaw, dean of the Arkansas Tech College of Business and professor of marketing. “At a cursory level, the viewer of the ATBI will have a summary number to assess a community’s economic conditions. At a deeper level, we give viewers access to the formative data used in the creation of the index for them to better evaluate certain aspects of the index for their community.

“To the degree we do this well, continued Bashaw, “we wish to become more relevant to students pursuing a business degree, to policy makers at the state and local level, and to business leaders and decision makers across the state by providing important economic information.”

Dr. Marc Fusaro, associate professor of economics at Arkansas Tech, developed the instrument for the Arkansas Tech Business Index and included a wide variety of factors in order to represent the complexity of the state’s economy.

“We wanted both supply side and demand side measures,” said Fusaro. “We wanted both consumption and investment. We wanted both contemporary and leading indicators.  We wanted to encompass both short-run and long-run decisions. Labor markets give us supply side, but we knew that unemployment rate does not complete the picture in the current weak economy so we added labor force participation. Sales tax measures consumption while housing and constructions measure investment. Permits indicate future economic activity while sales tax and labor markets look at current activity or even past activity. Sales taxes encompass short-run consumption decisions while the housing market involves a very long run decision.”

A member of the Arkansas Tech faculty since 2009, Fusaro believes the ATBI provides interested parties with a resource that did not previously exist.

“We wanted, and thought the market needed, a simple summary of economic activity,” said Fusaro. “So we created a simple index which increases when economic activity increases and falls when the economy slows. The index is based at 100. So if your city is above 100 then your city is doing better than the state average since 2009. If many cities are above 100, then much of the state is outperforming the recent past.”

The data is collected and communicated in a way that allows end users to analyze statewide performance by assessing the number of cities above or below the 100 line as well as the number of cities in which the index number has increased or decreased over a period of time.

Users wishing to utilize the ATBI data on a city-by-city basis may determine how a particular community has either grown or retracted over a period of time as well as comparing the economic performance of different cities to each other.

The Arkansas Tech College of Business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Arkansas Tech offers Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degrees in accounting, business data analytics, economics and finance and management and marketing as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in business education.

As of fall 2013, the Arkansas Tech College of Business also offers a Master of Science degree in business administration. The degree is designed for students who received their undergraduate training in a field other than business administration and wish to sharpen their business acumen for enhanced career opportunities.

For more information about the ATBI or the Arkansas Tech College of Business, call (479) 968-0490 or visit www.atu.edu/business.

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