School of Business Administration

Detroit Regional Chamber, Oakland Economic Data Center partner on data-driven project

icon of a calendarJanuary 8, 2019

icon of a pencilBy Liz Lent

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Detroit Regional Chamber, Oakland Economic Data Center form data-driven partnership

man gesturing towards a large screen that displays data on the wall, as a young man observes
Dr. Jonathan Silberman, economics professor and SEMEDC director, and research assistant Cooper Hazel, finance major, discuss aspects of the Detroit Regional Chamber project. Photo by Tatiana Hurst.

When the Detroit Regional Chamber began work on an enhanced online data center for regional statistics, it turned to the Oakland University School of Business Southeastern Michigan Economic Data Center (SEMEDC) to fuel its efforts with a project focused on up-to-the-minute information and analysis.

Founded and led by Oakland Professor of Economics Jonathan Silberman, Ph.D., the SEMEDC delivers state-of-the-art information and analysis on economic, demographic and business trends in Southeastern Michigan. “We launched the SEMEDC with a goal of engaging with the community by providing up-to-date quality data and insights into the local economy,” says Dr. Silberman. “Working as research assistants, undergraduate business students also gain valuable real-world experience gathering and mining data in ways that support and help drive business decisions.”

After completing project planning, developing and testing, the Chamber launched an enhanced regional statistics section powered by the Oakland SEMEDC in August. It was an immediate win for both the DRC and the Oakland students involved in the project, who benefited from the experience of extracting and defining data as well as seeing first-hand how its uses could make a difference for businesses in metro Detroit.

Attention to detail shone through in the project according to Angela Ladetto, its director of business research. “The Oakland team incorporated everything we asked for and more,” she says. “By working with Oakland, we identified our own set of metrics, which allowed us to bring in data on demographics, labor force, population and other factors.” 

“Now, thanks to this great project, the Detroit Regional Chamber is able to give our members more up-to-date information,” Ladetto adds. “In addition to offering more current information, it’s also resulted in a time savings for our team because the data from Oakland’s Economic Center updates automatically.”

Working with students also brought energy, innovation and a new perspective to the project “It is always a benefit to work with students,” says Ladetto. Not only do they have the technological savvy and expertise, they also “bring a fresh vision, which is critical. This project brought together new as well as experienced people, all working together. We could not have asked for a better experience.” 

Enriching undergraduate education 

In addition to supporting and engaging the community, the SEMEDC makes it possible for Oakland undergraduate business students to gain valuable applied research experience putting their data analysis and business skills to work.

Specifically, “students compile data, produce data displays, and as they gain more experience, they draft opinions and insights,” says Dr. Silberman. This work exposes students to the full breadth and range of data applications and their potential to spark innovation in the workplace.

Sophomore research assistant Cooper Hazel, who worked on the Detroit Regional Chamber project, finds his SEMEDC experience extremely beneficial. “Here I apply the concepts I learn in the classroom, which further increases my interest in class and economic research,” Hazel says. “I work one-on-one with Dr. Silberman. We talk about hot topics in economics and flesh out research angles.” 

“Working with Dr. Silberman on the Chamber project was eye-opening,” Hazel says. “I had a chance to examine Detroit’s economic data in the context of other cities as well as all of Southeastern Michigan.” 

Hazel saw his research work become a source of information that scores of metro Detroit professionals rely upon for their own enterprises. The experience of working with the Detroit Regional Chamber also helped him gain experience in the day-to-day operations of businesses.

“Working on this project exposed me to the complexities of professional projects, virtual teams and task interdependence,” says Hazel. “I put my skills in data organization, analysis and synthesis to the test, and I experienced growth in those areas as a result.” 

For Hazel, his work has been an invaluable stepping stone to future goals. “My experience on the SEMEDC/Chamber project emphasizes the power of data,” he says, factors that can help create and support findings and fact-based solutions. “After graduation, I want to contribute to solving the healthcare crisis. I want to change the world.”

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