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Clayton State doubles its economic impact

By Greg Gelpi

The economic impact of Clayton College & State University has doubled in the past five years, and one expert foresees continued economic growth.

According to a study by the University System of Georgia, the system as a whole pumped $9.7 billion into the state's economy, including $146.7 million that Clayton State injected into the Southern Crescent, in fiscal year 2004.

Retired Clayton State business and economics professor Doris Cash called the university a "major factor" on the local economy.

"One of the things it has done is greatly enhance the area for prospective residents," Cash said.

The university has enabled the area to attract the Gateway Village and state and federal archives, Cash said, and Morrow City Manager John Lampl agreed.

Lampl called Clayton State a "jewel" and "vital" to the economics of the city.

Grant Wainscott, Morrow's director of economic development, said that it would be "impossible" to imagine the city without the university since the two are so "intertwined."

"This is absolutely the best partner the city could ask for," Wainscott said. "Anybody can build a mall. Anybody can create a business district. A university brings so many things to the table."

Clayton State has benefited the city, county and Southern Crescent on "so many levels," he said. The university's fine arts programs, especially Spivey Hall, have garnered international recognition, and athletics and academics draw people from all around.

"From a tourism standpoint, many people come to the city for a number of events," Wainscott said.

In fact, Wainscott said the economic impact as determined by the University System's study "seems awfully low." Lampl said he was "surprised" it's not higher as well.

Construction of the state archives cost $41 million and the federal archives cost $28.5 million, Wainscott said. Clayton State Apartments meant another $35 million in construction, and Gateway Village has already produced more than $100 million of construction with another $100 million to $150 million "minimum" coming in the next five years.

Aside from construction, the university also impacts the retail industry in the city, Wainscott said.

"There's several businesses around the university that depend on the students," Wainscott said. "They all shop and eat somewhere even if they don't live in the area."

All of the construction, retail and other economic factors translate into tax revenue, Cash said. Not only does the university impact the area with the $146.7 million, but the impact is "multiplied." A "very conservative" estimate is that that figure is multiplied by 0.75, as money attracts money and passes form hand to hand.

In 1999, Clayton State brought $73.2 million to the community, and in the University System's 2001 study it brought $96.7 million.