Business students get real-world economics lesson, help community

Business students get real-world economics lesson, help community
Economics major Matthew O’Neil, one of the team members who worked on the Arts & Apples Festival project, visits with Tami Salisbury, Executive Director, Paint Creek Center for the Arts.

The Art & Apples Festival® is a staple of Rochester’s annual festival scene, attracting hundreds of artists and tens of thousands of visitors over the course of three days each September. Until the 2016 event, the exact number of attendees and the financial impact of the festival on the greater Rochester area was unknown by Rochester’s Paint Creek Center of the Arts (PCCA), festival organizer for more than 30 years.


When PCCA Executive Director Tami Salisbury combined forces with Oakland University Economics Professor Jonathan Silberman, Ph.D., they came up with a plan that would offer a real-world learning experience for Oakland business students and give PCCA the information they were seeking.


“We’d been trying to do this for a couple of years,” said Salisbury. “But we’re a 501(c)(3)

charity, so we don’t have deep pockets to conduct an analysis of this scope. Logically, partnering with Oakland University made sense.”


Real-world impact


Throughout the summer of 2016, Silberman worked with PCCA to design the economic impact study. PCAA collected information during the Festival, held the weekend following Labor Day. From there, the students in Silberman’s ECN 418: Seminar in Economic Policy class, compiled and analyzed the data, developed a report and delivered the presentation.


“Dr. Silberman worked together with our class throughout the entire project,” said Economics major Nino Vallone. “We used survey data gathered by Festival volunteers and estimated attendance to extrapolate the variables that we were then able to analyze using a statistical software package.”


Analysis of the data, combined with additional detailed intercept and online surveys, uncovered crucial information for PCCA, including these key highlights:

  • An estimated 85,000 patrons attended Rochester’s 51st Annual Art and Apples Festival®
  • 20 percent of attendees reside more than 25 miles away; some came as far as 50 miles away
  • The total economic impact Art & Apples provides to the community is estimated to be $2.6 million dollars


Salisbury was thrilled with the work Dr. Silberman and his students completed. “It was tremendous. The students came with insightful questions. They really took the data and drilled down to give us really good information and presented it in a manner that was easy to understand.


“The economic impact analysis clearly says that without the Art and Apples Festival®, $2.6 million dollars would not have been spent in the area during this time” said Salisbury. “Think about it, all of these patrons were dining, buying gas, shopping at the stores and some staying at hotels, essentially spending money that wouldn’t have otherwise come into the community.”


Now PCCA has tangible data to share with grant funders, sponsors and artists about the value the Art & Apples Festival® delivers to the community.


Education and experience


“It was a very positive experience,” said Dr. Silberman. “It’s very good education for the students. It’s one thing to talk in the classroom about what the theory is or what the issues are, but when you do an economic impact study, it’s quite another thing to actually implement.”


“This project helped every student in the class get valuable statistical experience and data entry experience regardless of their major,” said Economics major Matthew O’Neil. “Economics students learned how to conduct an impact analysis, which we will almost certainly do in our careers.”


Collaborations like these are the foundation of a stable and thriving community, with the added bonus of giving students a practical hands-on experience that they can apply in their professional careers.


“I got so much more out of this experience because I knew my participation would count for something in the real-world,” O’Neil added.


“This is real life,” said Salisbury. “We’re using this data to show the local communities the value that the festival provides.  When you invest so much time and energy in something you want to know that it was worth your time. We’re so grateful to Oakland University for delivering our proof; Art & Apples is definitely worth our time!”


The ECN 418 students who participated in the project were Donald Arapi, Marissa Coloske, Johnathan Diclement-Chacon, Alan Kerschenheiter, Matthew O'Neil, Danielle Partyka and Nino Vallone.

Brian Craig photo
Photo credit: Brian Craig of Brian Craig Photography


By Rachel Oakley SBA/CAS  `16