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PNREC History

The idea of a Pacific Northwest Regional Economic Conference came to Charles Tiebout, the noted and highly respected Professor of Urban and Regional Economics at the University of Washington, in 1966[1]. He had observed that economic organizations in other parts of the U.S. — the New England Council, for example, and the Southern Economic Association — were undertaking studies that turned the spotlight on their regional economies. These suggested additional reports, possible policy responses, and in any case governmental grants, both to research the problems further and to propose remedies. Professor Tiebout thought that the Pacific Northwest, which is (along with New England) one of the very few readily identifiable regions in the U.S., should also initiate an organization, forum, or publication that examined its economy, discovered problem areas, and suggested remedial action. He believed that, to start with, regional economists should meet informally, get to know each other, discuss each other’s research, and at the same time, welcome experts from outside of the region whom they would otherwise not get to see.

To this end, Tiebout asked business and government economists and academic colleagues concerned with the regional economy to organize a start-up conference at the University of Washington in early May of 1967. He then applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to help underwrite the project. The grant was readily approved, but the Conference site had to be shifted. State regulations at the time required the University of Washington to contribute all of its income (e.g., from federal grants, registration fees, and incidental revenue) to the State’s General Fund, and to limit its expenditures to items specifically approved by the State Legislature in the regular biennial state budget. Lewis and Clark College, a private liberal arts college in Portland that was not bound by such rigidities, was willing to stage the conference. Because of the conference’s prospective size, it had to be relocated to the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland.

Thus, PNREC came into being. The inaugural Conference lasted two days; it was a great success. Supported by the generous federal grant, it invited economists from outside the region such as Dr. Charles Levin of Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Anthony Pascal of the RAND Corporation, and Dr. Benjamin Chinitz from Brandeis University. It was able to waive the registration fee for regional economists still in graduate school, and to offer travel grants to registrants from distant places in the Pacific Northwest. To Professor Tiebout’s special delight, it was even able to sponsor a lively cocktail party on Friday evening. The program covered many topics, though it concentrated on the theory and practice of building input-output models that were then under construction in most states of the region. At the end, everyone agreed that a second such conference should be convened a year later.

Conference II, held in Seattle in early May 1968, fared less well. The mushrooming war in Vietnam had caused severe inflationary pressures, and EDA came under strong political and budgetary pressure. Applying for another conference grant was out of the question; the Conference would have to finance itself largely from registration fees, although a number of business firms agreed to cover any deficit it might incur. In February 1968, Professor Tiebout suffered a sudden, fatal heart attack. The steering committee thus was robbed of its most prestigious, most imaginative, and most dynamic leader. But plans were so far advanced that the Conference, widely regarded as a final tribute to Professor Tiebout, did take place.
The background of PNREC | Current and future challenges for PNREC


PNREC 2023 features four keynote speakers, 17 panel sessions, and the regional economic outlook session.


Walla Walla regional economy bus tour

Would you like to learn more about the regional economy in Walla Walla? This year, we are pleased to offer an optional regional economy bus tour on May 8. The tour features a catered lunch at Pepper Bridge Winery, a guided tour of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s Chinook Hatchery, and a guided tour of College Cellars of Walla Walla. It is a great opportunity to connect with colleagues and learn more about the region during a beautiful time of the year!

The bus departs from the Marcus Whitman Hotel at 11:00am and returns at 5:30pm.

Secure your seat when registering for the conference. If you’ve already registered, or wish to buy a ticket for a friend, no problem! We have a “bus tour only” option open as well. The cost per person is $125. Participants must be 21 or older.

Register at

2023 PNREC Keynote Speakers Announced: