MISSOULA – Former director of the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Paul Polzin, received the highest honor granted by the Association for University Business and Economic Research, the premier professional organization dedicated to improving research in business, economics and public policy.
Polzin recently was named recipient of the Thayne Robson Award, an honor awarded only four times in AUBER's 64-year history. Polzin received the award for leadership in regional economics, and for outstanding mentoring and selfless contributions to his colleagues throughout his 20-year tenure as director of UM's BBER and his decades as a member, officer and advocate of AUBER. The award was presented at AUBER's annual conference, held this year in Portland, Ore.
"Polzin's reputation for 'telling it straight' earned the respect of leaders and decision makers across the country, despite sometimes being unpopular with incumbent politicians," said Patrick Barkey, Polzin's successor as director of the Montana BBER. "This was particularly true in the mid-1980s, when oil price declines, a wood products bust and the end of the Anaconda Copper Co. produced an economy in 1990 that was smaller than it was 10 years earlier. To read his writings during this trying period is to immediately grasp his integrity and analytical acumen – not to mention his courage – in laying out what were then very unpleasant facts."
As director of the UM bureau, Polzin strove to greatly expand the center's work and audience. When he began as director in 1988, the bureau had six employees and its flagship event, the annual economic outlook seminar, had a total attendance of nearly 800 people. When he retired as director in 2008, the bureau staff had more than tripled in size and seminar attendance had nearly doubled to 1,600 people in seven cities.
AUBER colleagues across the country cite Polzin as a pivotal mentor in their careers, including Eric Thompson, director of the Bureau of Business Research at University of Nebraska – Lincoln and current AUBER president.
"He guided me through my terms as an AUBER officer and provided constant advice and optimism to help me in my early years working as a director," Thompson said. "I'm sure there are many other people who would say the same."
Polzin has studied the Montana economy extensively during the past 40 years, with particular emphasis on the natural resources industry. He holds a doctorate degree in economics from Michigan State University and served as president of the Western Regional Science Association, the Pacific Northwest Economics Conference and AUBER.
The Bureau of Business and Economic Research has been providing information about Montana's state and local economies for more than 50 years. Housed on the campus of the University of Montana, the Bureau is the research and public service branch of the School of Business Administration. On an ongoing basis, the Bureau analyzes local, state, and national economies; provides annual income, employment, and population forecasts; conducts extensive research on forest products, manufacturing, health care, and for Montana Kids Count; designs and conducts comprehensive survey research at its on-site call center; presents annual economic outlook seminars in cities throughout Montana; and publishes the award-winning Montana Business Quarterly.