Nick Loflin’s ‘01 enthusiasm for life is contagious.
Former teacher, current Greensboro Fire Captain, soon-to-be UNC Greensboro master’s graduate, fundraiser and public servant, Loflin knows how to get things done and better his community while doing it.
For him, landing at UNCG has broadened his potential to create real-world impact—by connecting his firefighting career with the world of economics.
Funnel of Opportunity
“I talk to my kids about the funnel of opportunity. I tell them the farther you get in life, the narrower that funnel can get, so you want to keep that funnel as wide as possible.”
Loflin gives this response when asked why he returned to school. Being a firefighter is a physically and emotionally demanding job, and he wanted to develop a new skillset that could one day translate into a second career.
In other words, he wanted to keep his funnel of opportunity wide, and UNCG provided him with the avenue to do so.
Why Economics? Why UNCG?
According to Loflin, he’s known around the fire station as a big geek.
“I have always loved data, loved numbers. I wanted to find something I not only enjoy but a field that could also add value to the fire department and other places,” says Loflin.
Loflin researched many master’s programs but found UNCG had “the unique combo of having a high-level remote program with a strong reputation. And it was near me, which allowed me to chat up my professors.”
This accessibility to professors paid off for Loflin. He says, “Multiple times, I’ve given them a wild hair idea, and they have never been dismissive. They’ve always taken the time for this 45-year-old firefighter.”
UNCG also proved to be more diverse than Loflin expected—his classes included not only a broad spectrum of ages, but also a healthy mix of people already working as economists, those who were in other fields, and classmates who were recent college graduates.
“It was cool meeting different people, seeing all the different backgrounds of students and learning what was driving them,” says Loflin.
Firefighting Meets Economics
Perhaps what’s most interesting about Loflin is how his two worlds collided in this educational pursuit.
He explains that almost every program class offered the opportunity to create a deliverable project. Therefore, he applied his work as the Greensboro Fire Captain to his class projects.
Loflin focused on different questions around the fire service, especially because there is little research on the economics of emergency services delivery. In one class, Loflin forecasted the demand for a fire truck, seeking to confirm the factors driving that demand and then conducting a cost-benefit analysis.
“I used the fire service as an example in almost every class I took, searching for how our fire department can do better,” says Loflin.
The Economics of Firefighting
Because of his Bryan School experience, Loflin claims he cannot help but look at everything he does at the fire station through a lens of economics.
Economics, he explains, is the most efficient way to create the highest benefit using the resources you have. Loflin wants to create the “innovation and efficiency” he sees in the private sector and apply it to improve the public sector.
With his public sector background and his emerging economically-minded perspective, Loflin sees a future career as a consultant supporting the conversation between the public sector and private stakeholders. In other words, he looks to translate what the fire department knows into terms that the stakeholders without a fire background will value and act upon.
“Firefighters are speaking in response time language, for example, but the stakeholders have a business vocabulary and speak in dollars and tax base,” says Loflin. “I can help translate.”
Side Hustle for Good
Every firefighter has a side hustle, and Loflin’s is events.
If you’re a Greensboro resident, you’ve probably heard about the Running of the Balls, but you may not know that Loflin is the man behind the event. He started organizing “mud runs” to fundraise for the International Association of Firefighters but now he manages the largest 5K run in Greensboro.
The Running of the Balls takes place in Sunset Hills, the neighborhood next to UNCG’s campus. Under the light of the famous Christmas balls in the trees, this event raises funds for locals in need.
This year, the 12th annual Running of the Balls will be held on December 16th and will raise its five millionth meal for Second Harvest Food Bank, for a total of $750,000. Loflin expects 5,000 people at the event.
A Big Thank You
Loflin was already someone who made things happen before he entered his master’s program at UNCG. But now armed with innovative ideas and economic research, he is determined and destined to have even more real-world impact on his community in the future.
“I want to say thanks to UNCG. There’s a set of opportunities that lie in front of me that I did not have two years ago,” said Loflin. “Building value through education is generational change for people. It has been that for me. My kids will be better off, and hopefully, the community will be better off.”
Story by Amy Burtch, University Communications
Videography by Grant Gilliard, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications
Running of the Balls Photography courtesy of Maury Kennedy
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