The economic development team sat down with Dr. Robert Eyler to discuss his work as an economist, along with economic trends that affect the City of Napa. Dr. Eyler presents quarterly updates to the City Council on macroeconomic forces impacting the country, Bay Area and the North Bay. He also assists with updating the City’s Economic Development Dashboard.
What do you enjoy most about your work as an economist?
I view economics as a way of thinking about the world; so for me, what I like the most is being able to explain to people how economics is a lens by which you can really think about human behavior. I once taught a class about the basics of economics, where I talked about the economics of law and the economics of relationships all on the same day. Advising communities about how economics works is also something I enjoy, especially if it helps policymaking for a better tomorrow. That is the real juice for me.
What are some larger trends for Napa’s economy that we should be watching?
Global travel trends are likely the largest thing to watch, as they are a barometer of how people will come to Napa to visit the food and wine scenes. So much of that flow helps both Napa's core merchants and also the wineries that populate Napa County more generally. How wineries continue to grow in size, compete with other beverages and markets, and drive members to wine clubs (and to their direct consumer platforms) indirectly affects the flow of visitors to Napa. Watching housing and wages and small business pressures are trends at the hyperlocal level that will continue to be there through at least 2030.
Through your work in Napa and other municipalities, how do you see data influencing economic development decisions?
The data should provide both context and tracking for decisions. The macroeconomic data is really watching the air above Napa and how global forces may change the industries that drive Napa's economy. The local indicators are really to watch for progress and for potential problems that need to be addressed. Housing market data is where the trickiest connections lie. When housing prices rise, Napa's homeowners are better off, renters are not. When prices fall, the opposite takes place, and there is so much emotion in those numbers. The key is the data providing clarity and context for decisions as much as it can.
Is there anything else you wished people knew about your work that they might not know?
The one thing is that the work I do is really about education, whether it is in the classroom, in City Council, or elsewhere. That is where I think I have my "superpower,” if I have one. My drive is to provide a way to think about the local and global economies and how they interplay, and I have been lucky enough to have a number of communities that see me as such an educator. That is very humbling.