Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Richard Funderburg, assistant professor of urban and regional planning, researches factors that attract economic activities to developing and advantaged regions, such as industry clusters, transportation infrastructure, housing, and financial incentives.

He points out a pervasive problem with economic impact studies: they tend to overestimate the benefits of spending public tax dollars on economic development. Often forecasts fail to account for the baseline scenario, economic activity that would occur even if the public intervention, project, or expenditure – like the construction of a new coliseum, stadium, or arena – does not occur. He is developing more accurate prediction models.

Funderburg is an enthusiastic mentor, who says he looks up to senior faculty role models at the UI.

“They really care about their effectiveness as scholars and teachers and are passionate about their research,” he says. “And the students are the smartest anywhere I’ve been. I never cease to learn something new from students inside and outside the classroom.”

A native Californian, Funderburg grew up surfing and snowboarding, and learned to skate half-pipes from Lester Kasai, a pioneer in professional skateboarding. Funderburg co-organized a skateboarding event at which pro skaters Neil Blender, John Lucero, and Tony Hawk participated. His adventuresome spirit has, however, led to a few mishaps.

“My passion for Vespa motor scooters ended with the second of two collisions with an automobile of the four-wheeled variety,” he says. “Close friends still call me ‘Scooter’ for my misfortune.”