UNA student to be recognized on a national level

FLORENCE, AL (WAFF) - A group of students at the University of North Alabama will present their research at April's annual Society of Business, Industry and Economics conference in Destin, Florida.

The group has been researching economic versus' political motives behind last year's 789 Chrysler dealership closings. They have made headlines in a host of national media, including a live spot on the Fox News program "Fox & Friends."

The student team presenting the research includes seniors Alex Yugo Hiari, of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Lauren McCullough, of Tuscumbia; Dylan Michael, of Tuscumbia; and Kumar Ujjwal, of Florence. UNA economics professors Dr. Jim Couch and Dr. Keith Malone have also had a hand in the research.

The research began last summer after the controversy over the reports suggesting that Chrysler dealerships with political ties to the Democratic Party escaped closure.

"For example Landers-McLarty dealerships survived. Mack McLarty, one of the owners, was an aide to former President Bill Clinton. Accusations spread that dealerships over by individuals with ties to the Republican Party were being targeted for closure," said Dr. Couch.

Dealerships selling the full line of Chrysler products were more likely to remain open according to the research. However, the unemployment rates around the dealerships and the saturation of Chrysler dealerships in a particular location were not closely linked to the decision to close.

Research also showed that when the votes for Obama increased, the likelihood of a dealership's closure decreased substantially. Likewise, states that supported Obama saw a smaller percentage of their dealerships terminated.

The students took the idea for this research project from Dr. Couch's summer 2009 economics class. The class was studying a statistical technique that allows economists to find relationships between variables and, ultimately, to forecast the future.

"Rather than use manufactured data from their textbooks, the students wanted to investigate something from the real world, even if it meant more work," commented Dr. Couch.