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Muni Market Trends: Past, Present, & Future with Justin Marlowe (Part 1)

Where Public Finance Works

Episode 5 Show Notes

“In public finance, being able to have the platform that we have, the ability to look out broadly and see trends and provide advice is really rewarding, challenging, intimidating, and a responsibility that we take very seriously."

- Justin Marlowe, Research Professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.

Episode Summary

In this episode of Where Public Finance Works, we explore the experience of Justin Marlowe, esteemed faculty member at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. Here Justin shares the complexities and rewards of public finance and his unique ability to provide expansive guidance and insights.

Join our host, Tyler Traudt, as he takes us through Justin’s prolific writing career, highlighting his five published works, including the growing excitement around his forthcoming book which offers an invaluable issuer’s perspective on the municipal bond market. As the episode unfolds, Justin reflects on his two decades of teaching, celebrating the transformative impact of education on his students who discover unforeseen passions and career avenues in public finance.

Justin’s story is a testament to the impact of nurturing a passion for public service, educational empowerment, and the ongoing drive for innovation in the field of public finance.

Featured Guest

Justin Marlowe is a Research Professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. His teaching and research are focused on state and local government budgeting, finance, and financial management. He has published five books – including the forthcoming Public Debt Management: Strategy and Evidence – and dozens of articles on the municipal bond market, infrastructure finance, governmental accounting, and local fiscal policy.

At the Center for Municipal Finance, he has led the development of several innovative research studies and data products designed to help state/local government officials make better decisions about borrowing and investing public money. He also serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Public Budgeting & Finance Journal. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and co-hosts (with Liz Farmer) the popular podcast “The Public Money Pod.”

Top Takeaways From Episode Five

1. The complexities of municipal bonds expanding in literature: Justin reveals the buildup to his new book, promising to enrich the field with comprehensive insights on municipal bond markets from an issuer’s standpoint, a perspective not commonly explored in existing literature.

2. The transformative power of teaching public finance: Reflecting on a two-decade teaching career, Justin celebrates the influential role education plays in shaping the future of public finance professionals, inspiring students to pursue unexpected and fulfilling career paths within this important sector.

3. The necessity of tools and agility in public finance: Justin speaks on the importance of equipping professionals with the right tools to effectively navigate and respond to the dynamic changes within the public finance market. This enables teams to swiftly adapt to new scenarios and make informed decisions in real-time. 

Public Finance Insights

[1:35] Justin shares his current role and experiences in the field of public finance and policy: Currently on the faculty at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, Justin reflects on his upbringing in Wisconsin, his time as a Management Analyst for the City of Marquette, MI, and his passion for the research, public engagement, and educational aspects of his work in public finance.

[6:48] Being in public finance is both intimidating and motivating: Justin talks about having the opportunity to utilize his platform to broadly observe and forecast trends, and to offer guidance that draws from a wider perspective than what many in the field can afford—due to time or resource constraints.

[12:21] Justin reflects on the influence of public service within his family and how it shaped his own career path: He suggests that a dedication to community and service to others was instilled in him from an early age, and it was apparent that public service would be a significant part of his life.

[17:50] As an accomplished author with five titles to his name, Justin shares insights into his works: He talks about the importance of each book, including one of his favorites that highlights capital budgeting.

[20:26] His upcoming book, Public Debt Management: Strategy and Evidence, is set to be published around mid 2024: Justin shares how the book aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the municipal bond market from the perspective of the issuer, addressing the various strategic decisions and steps involved in taking bonds to market—a subject that has not been explored in previous research.

[26:39] Justin considers the hardest part about writing a book: One of the main challenges comes with releasing the work to the public and allowing it to stand on its own. This is particularly tricky in the context of the municipal market, which he notes is evolving rapidly, adding another layer of complexity to the writing process.

[31:44] After two decades of teaching, Justin reflects on how to keep the material fresh and inspiring: He revels in the unexpected career paths of students who, inspired by their education, discover a talent and passion for public finance—a field they might not have initially considered.

[42:15] Justin touches on the importance of having the right kinds of tools in public finance: He stresses how having these tools in public finance can help teams look at different scenarios on the fly and know right away the changes in the market.

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