In March of 1983 two professors from the Department of Economics of the University of Missouri-Kansas City decided to take a day trip to Jefferson City. It was rumored that somewhere deep within the bowels of the Missouri State Library, there was Census Data in a machine readable format. On the three hour drive from Kansas City to Jefferson City, Professors Eugene Wagner and Peter Eaton had time to speculate about census data usage in a world where personal computers were widely available. Both had state of the art 16Mhz screamers with 640K of RAM, a monochrome (amber) 9" monitor, a 5¼" floppy drive and a hard drive with 40 Mb of storage. As you can probably imagine, those speculations of more than 20 years ago fell seriously short of the reality of present data usage.
Upon arrival at the State Library, we were ushered to a small room. While we waited, we could see 9" reels of magnetic tape on a shelf, with the initials ‘stf’ and some numbers. This was our introduction to the summary tape files of the Census Bureau. There was obviously not much demand for these tapes from the State Library. In fact, we were amazed that the person in charge of these tapes was willing to check them out to us. It was on the three hour trip back from Jefferson City to Kansas City that we decided to try to set up a center at UMKC. At the time our ideas were vague, but we knew that we wanted to help democratize data usage through the use of personal computers.
Unfortunately, our ideas did not strike the fancy of decision makers at UMKC. It took us three full fledged projects, 11 years, and four generations of Intel processors to get a center. In November of 1994, Chancellor Eleanor Brantley Schwartz announced the establishment of the UMKC Center for Economic Information (CEI). The CEI is associated with the Department of Economics and the College of Arts and Sciences of UMKC.
We have maintained our ties to the State Library through participation as a partner of the Missouri State Census Data Center Program (MSCDC). The State Library is the lead agency of this program, which works with the Federal Census Bureau to make census (and other) data more useful to data consumers. Each state has its own state data center program, and Missouri’s program is among the most active and prominent. The CEI became involved in the MSCDC after it had attained national recognition. The national recognition is due principally to the work of two core members of MSCDC - the Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis (OSEDA) of University (of Missouri) Outreach and Extension and the Urban Information Center (UIC) of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Both institutions have encouraged and supported us. Both also have been working with the State Library for a number of years (since 1988) to provide access and value added to users of census data.