Prominent Valley economist Elliott Pollack, CEO of economic analysis firm Elliott D. Pollack and Company, is a no-nonsense kind of guy, his passion for his profession evident in every word of his rapid-fire delivery. Yet he’s not a strictly by-the-numbers sort; he has a philosophical streak. Just ask, for example, how he got his start. “Life,” he says, “is how you react to a series of what are, essentially, random events.”
It was the television game show “Concentration,” on which his mother was a contestant in 1963, that prompted his family’s move to Arizona from New York. “She was on for three weeks straight,” he recalls, and his mom won a lot of prizes: “cars, boats, cash.” As fate would have it, she also won a vacation to Phoenix. After a two-week escape to the Valley of the Sun, his parents decided to stay the winter, and soon they decided to move permanently. Pollack’s reaction to the news was, “Where the hell is Phoenix, Arizona?”
He was attending Boston University, where he earned a bachelor’s in accounting. Math was one of many subjects that had always come easy for him. While taking economics his sophomore year, he thought, “Geez, a monkey could do this.” He went on to earn an M.B.A. from the University of Southern California, and then found himself in Phoenix as well.
Pollack landed a job at Valley National Bank, where he’d work the next 18 years, 14 of those as the chief economist. And his landing that position was random, too, he says. After laboring in the trust department a few years, he felt it was time to move up or move on. On his way to resign, he was joined in the elevator by the chairman of the board and Pollack shared his impending plans. The chairman asked him to hold off, and later that day, Pollack got a phone call. He was the new chief economist. “A lot of good people there,” he says of the bank. “It was a good run.”
But by 1987, it was time again to move on and he went into business for himself. He’d gained a wealth of experience at Valley National Bank, as well as a following, and was frequently featured in the press. He believed “something would happen,” and it did. Companies started calling, wanting litigation support, feasibility analyses and to know what was happening with the economy. He’d found a niche, but perhaps even he didn’t initially realize its importance to clients. “I didn’t understand they’d be willing to pay me as much as they were,” he says.
The rise of the computer has affected his field, mostly advantageously because of increased efficiency, but he’s also faced challenges. He doesn’t like confrontation and, like most bosses, he doesn’t like firing employees. But if things aren’t working out, “I want to end it sooner rather than later,” he says.
The same goes for clients. One challenge was his decision to fire a municipality as a client “because they didn’t like the answer” he gave on a zoning matter. The decision meant he lost a tidy sum, but his credibility was more important. “If someone can show me that I’m wrong, I’m all ears,” he says. “It doesn’t happen that often.” In fact, after a change in personnel, the municipality did seek his expertise again, he adds.
While he’s considered expanding his business, he never has because focusing on the local market is what makes Elliot D. Pollack and Company so strong. “We can run circles around our competition,” he says. “We know more. Why? Because our feet are on the ground here.”
After 25 years in the business, he’s says there’s nothing he can’t do when it comes to economics. “What I’m proudest of, after being in this business for so long, is that I still am reasonably well thought of and people still want to hear what I have to say,” he says.
An Economic Focus
- Elliott D. Pollack founded his company in 1987.
- Of the company’s 10 employees, seven are economic consultants.
- Services include market feasibility studies, economic policy analysis, affordable housing studies and land analysis as well as economic impact and fiscal impact analysis.
- Strategic partners include commercial real estate and site selection organization CBRE and economic development practitioner Ioanna Morfessis, Ph.D.
- The company’s expertise has been called on by a variety clients that have included the State of Arizona, Arizona Diamondbacks, Del Webb, Gila River Indian Community, Luke Air Force Base and Southern California Edison.