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Dominick Bartelme

Former U-M Undergraduate Returns to Ann Arbor as Assistant Professor of Economics 

Dominick Bartelme grew up in Ann Arbor and graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Economics and Mathematics from U-M in 2008. He remembers two especially influential moments during his undergraduate years, an honors seminar with Stephen Salant and having Warren Whatley as a professor. “Honors seminar was my first exposure to doing econ research on my own. Salant gave us intensive guidance, but at the same time I could figure things out on my own. It fired up my passion for research as well as demonstrated to me that I could actually do this. I might be able to contribute some knowledge to the world. Whatley had this incredible enthusiasm for economic history and he got me excited about understanding the past and using it to illuminate the present. I try to think in historical terms in my research, it’s an illuminating take to have on the world,” he explained.

After graduation, he left Michigan to earn his PhD in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, a move he hoped would land him a faculty position at U-M upon completion. Remarkably, it actually happened. With specializations in international trade and economic geography, Dominick’s research draws on ideas and methods from many areas of economics. He examines questions related to trade, geography and macroeconomics from a broad, society-wide perspective.

In “Spatial Frictions and Industry Location: The Decline of the Manufacturing Belt,” a proposal that earned Dominick a MITRE Faculty Research Award, he is “taking an industry level and historical look at the reason why the manufacturing belt in the US is no longer a thing. In the early 20th century, an area known as the manufacturing belt appeared in the Northwest and Midwest. Since the 1950s, manufacturing activity has started to leave the manufacturing belt. A lot has gone overseas and a lot has stayed in the country and gone south and west. I want to understand the sources of this decline."

The unique way that he is approaching this is with the notion that space matters through trade and other related interactions. "Suppliers want to locate close to final goods producers, final goods producers want to locate closer to customers, and so trade costs basically induce people to cluster this complex of activity together. As the 20th century has progressed we’ve had a lot of improvements in transportation and communication infrastructure, and so minimizing those distance-related costs became relatively less important and other forces, like which areas have the lowest labor costs or less active unions, may have become much more important. I’m going to explore how important this decline in transportation and communication costs has been to this decline in the manufacturing belt and the spread of industry” says Dominick.

Dominick was drawn to a career at U-M because of its immense resources. These resources include top faculty from a broad set of fields and resources to support young faculty members. “Having accomplished faculty to talk with, collaborate, and learn from is key. The department also supports young faculty members in terms of funding for research, course reductions, and facilitating a positive overall environment to start my career. In economics, its difficult for young researchers to get large external awards, it usually takes some time. It’s nice to have intermediate high-level funding within the department and I’ve been able to take advantage of that.”

For more information on Dominick and his work, check out his website!