Our People

Patrick Burden

Chairman of the Board and Principal Economist

Since founding the company as a sole proprietor in 1982, Patrick Burden and his colleagues have built Northern Economics into Alaska’s leading economic consulting firm. He has conducted more than 300 varied projects for private and public sector clients—projects ranging from small tasks for local entities to large, multidisciplinary projects of international significance. Pat’s major areas of expertise are resource and transportation economics, and infrastructure and economic development. He is also adept at managing complex projects involving intensive collaboration with subconsultants and client personnel.

Projects that help to shape Alaska’s economic future and influence the quality of life for its residents stimulate Pat’s continuing interest and excitement in economic consulting. Pat’s more than 30 years of consulting has spanned boom times and recessions. He has seen periods of expanded funding for energy programs, environmental studies, transportation, and other fields come and go over the years, and participated in those studies when they were ongoing.

Alaska is similar in many respects to developing countries around the world. Leveraging these similarities, Pat has been involved in projects to assist developing economies in the former Soviet Union and Africa with infrastructure development.

Pat’s involvement in international development projects, and particularly a 1995 project in Kazakhstan for the U.S. Agency for International Development led to the decision to move beyond sole proprietorship—he could not continue to work internationally and still serve his clients in Alaska unless the company expanded. Since 1995, Northern Economics has grown to fifteen persons to serve clients in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, other U.S. states, and countries around the world.

Philosophically egalitarian, and committed to achieving the best possible products for his clients within the parameters of budgets, Pat practices principle-centered management to elicit optimum performance from his staff of colleagues. Pat gravitated to applied economics because he believes that it can make important differences in people’s lives. He is particularly enthusiastic about using the spatial dimensions of charts and graphs to help people understand concepts in economics and business. “Using spatial orientation can enable you to understand and describe phenomena that are often difficult to comprehend if they are expressed as pure mathematics,” he explains.

Pat has not yet realized all of his dreams. He says that he had hoped his overseas projects would lead to dreamlike jobs in Tahiti, Samoa, Fiji, or other South Pacific Islands—particularly during the Alaska winters. To date, much of the company’s international experience has been conducted during winters in Russia and Kazakstan. Pat is still looking for ideal projects nearer the Equator.

Pat, his wife Merilee, and their two sons, Merrick and Geoff, moved to Anchorage in January 1981. The temperature was -35°F. Grandparents and other relatives were told the move would only be for a few years. For 30 years, Anchorage was home and only the love for a new granddaughter motivated them to leave Alaska and friends and move to Washington state in 2013.