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IMPLAN in the Classroom: How a Wingate Undergrad Became a Published Economics Researcher

August 22, 2023 by Chandler West

IMPLAN Cloud makes it possible for anyone, even beginners, to conduct economic impact analysis  – just ask Livian Mai, the Wingate University marketing major who recently became a published economics researcher.

Mai was only a junior when she enrolled in Dr. Kristin Stowe’s Economic Impact Analysis (ECON 412) class. As a student in the Honors College at Wingate, Mai was encouraged to take courses outside her major. She was excited to see what this new course would teach her, but never imagined it would lead to her first academic publication.

ECON 412 at Wingate University

Stowe’s ECON 412 class was developed in 2019 with the support of the dean of Wingate’s business school. Stowe, an IMPLAN Certified Economist, was inspired to create the course after learning about similar offerings at the University of Vermont. She saw an opportunity to “expand service learning through the curriculum,” she says.

“My goal was to develop a class in which students could learn about economics, about economic development, economic theory, where students could learn some practical software skills, but where students could also conduct community oriented research,” says Dr. Stowe. 

Since the class was officially launched in the spring semester of 2020, students have conducted a variety of economic research projects focused on the Union County community and North Carolina at large. This has included studies of the economic impact of Wingate University itself, studies of the Council of Aging in Union County, and work connected to other local and regional organizations.

Making Connections

When it was Mai’s turn to take the class, she was interested in finding a research subject that would connect her community in North Carolina with her community in her country of origin, Vietnam. She discovered that Vingroup, a large Vietnamese company that currently operates a car plant only 25 miles from her hometown of Hai Phong, had plans to break into the U.S. market by opening VinFast, the first automobile-manufacturing facility in North Carolina, in 2025.

“Before taking the course, I never really thought about how construction of a new business could impact my life. When I studied the economic impact using IMPLAN, it helped me understand. It is really intriguing to me, to be able to learn how to use well-trusted data from multiple government and economic databases to be able to make projections.” 

- Livian Mai

To conduct her research, Mai read articles and scoured online resources in English and Vietnamese. She searched for the numbers she needed to help her analyze the new plant’s economic impact, including its projected numbers of employees. She also found information about the number of vehicles VinFast expects to manufacture each year. 

Professor Stowe saw promise in Mai’s thoroughness and her deep interest in her work. As Mai got further into her research, Stowe helped her dive even deeper. Together they determined that VinFast’s economic effect on Chatham County during its first three years would exceed $15.3 billion. Their 9-page paper “VinFast’s Economic Impact in North Carolina” was recently published in the Research in Business and Economics Journal.

After the class, Mai was so fascinated by the power of economic impact analysis that she added an economics minor to her coursework. She reports that after graduation, she wants to work as a marketer with an economics emphasis. She told the Richmond Observer, “For me, it’s not just about creativity, but it’s about sharing with stakeholders and potential investors that I know the numbers behind the ideas.”

Shape the Future with IMPLAN

Here at IMPLAN, we’re proud to play a part in empowering people from all career backgrounds to harness economic analysis. Whether you want to make better decisions for your organization, or teach others to do so in a classroom setting, we are here to make the process easy and approachable. Schedule a demo today to see how IMPLAN empowers beginners and experienced researchers alike.

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Topics: Economics, Education


Put simply, IMPLAN is built for everyone.

Together, our software and data give you a window into your region of study — like one gigantic transaction log for the local economy. Chances are that if your project or business has a financial component, then IMPLAN can reveal some sometimes surprising detail about how your project relates to the local, state, or national economy.

What used to take economists weeks can be done in minutes. By anyone!

But you're not alone, IMPLAN's best benefits go beyond the work done in the tool:

  • Easy to learn and use
  • Outstanding customer support
  • Access to orientations, trainings, and project consultations
  • Instills confidence in your analyses

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