Herm Isenstein began building DISCCORP’s foundation in his native New Hampshire when his older brother, Stan, advised him to change his major from political science to economics at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). The chairman at UNH’s Economics Dept., Professor Bill Henry, mentored Herm, and after he graduated from UNH, Henry advised him to fulfill his military commitment as an infantry officer and then return to do graduate work. Herm chose a small school with a strong economics department — the University of Rhode Island — where he was awarded a research fellowship and a full tuition paid scholarship.
After graduating with honors he landed a job as a general economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. In that capacity he had the opportunity to work in three key areas that were the mainstay of his career. He worked with a team of economists analyzing and forecasting the general economy, which served as the framework for commodity specialists to develop their outlook for demand for key agricultural commodities.
He was part of a four-member task force to analyze the interdependence between the manufacturing sector and agricultural sector and how changes in the overall economy impacted each. Little did he know at the time that this analytical approach would be the basis for his now widely used MarketTrack™ program showing end-market demand for electrical distributor products. Third, he projected how the agricultural industry would look in the next 15 years and 25 years. This was well received and was instrumental in his gaining admission into the graduate division at the University of Chicago. While at the University of Chicago he received an MBA from the Graduate School of Business. He was also in the doctoral program in the economics department where he had the opportunity to study under several Nobel Prize winners, including the famed economist, Milton Friedman. One of his classmates, Bob Lucas, went on to win the Nobel Prize in Economics. He returned to Washington, D.C., and for several years worked in the Department of Commerce in conjunction with the State Department preparing position papers for the U.S. delegation to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, France.
Herm left Washington to accept a position as an economist with the Iranian Oil Operating Companies based in Tehran, Iran. He spent four years in Tehran where he served as an advisor to the Operating Companies’ efforts to promote economic development for the overall Iranian economy. At the same time, he worked with a team of economists and engineers analyzing capital investment projects in oil producing and refining operations. Returning from Iran in 1974, Herm went to work for GE Supply where he developed techniques to quantify the underlying relationship between the electrical industry and its key economic drivers. Cleanly segmenting the industry’s major markets led to improved resource allocation and simplified the planning process. This analysis and the resulting forecasts were available to managers at GE Supply and GE’s manufacturing divisions. The positive feedback he got at GE for his interpretation of how the industry is segmented and how it behaves gave him the confidence to start DISCCORP and to provide economic forecasts and analysis to the entire electrical market. Herm ran DISCCORP for 34 years, before selling it to Christian Sokoll as he had planned to retire.
Sadly, after a battle with brain cancer, Herm passed away on September 11, 2019, at the age of 86. He was known throughout the electrical market as the leading economist in the business and was a long-time contributing writer for Electrical Wholesaling. According to his obituary in the Boston Globe, Isenstein was preceded in death by his first wife Joalit Isenstein in 1974, and was the devoted and loving father of Sheri Isenstein Schonfeld and her husband Mark Schonfeld of Boston, Massachusetts, and Gil Isenstein and his wife, Lisa Waters, of Malibu, California. He was the caring grandfather to Jonathan Isenstein and Mabel Isenstein and loyal brother of the late Stanley Isenstein. He is also survived by his loving wife Deborah Isenstein, who was by his side at many electrical industry functions over the years.