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Study: Colleges, universities boost local economies

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Georgia's institutions of higher learning provided billions in income and revenue throughout the state in 2008-09, according to a state-wide study released Thursday.

The study, known as the Economic Impact of University System of Georgia Institutions on their Regional Economies, revealed that state institutions played a role in producing $12.7 billion in sales or output.

The study also said institutions of higher learning generated $7.6 billion in gross regional product, $5.7 billion in income, and 112,336 full-and part-time jobs during 2008-09.

"I think what the study shows is, at least through [2008-09], that the universities in the University System of Georgia were a stabilizing influence on the local economy," said Jeffrey Humphreys, an economist and the author of the economic impact study.

Humphreys, also the director of economic forecasting at the University of Georgia Terry College of Business, was commissioned by Georgia's Intellectual Capital Partnership Program (ICAPP) to head up research for the needs-assessment study.

Researchers at UGA's Selig Center for Economic Growth analyzed data collected between July 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009, to calculate the 35-member University System's 2008-09 economic impact. The study, according to Humphreys, uses that data as a means to evaluate how much a region benefits economically from hosting an institution of higher education.

"State-wide, universities and colleges helped offset the full impact of the economic recession," Humphreys added.

Clayton State University, in Morrow, contributed more than $205 million to the regional economy during 2008-09, up from $198 million in 2007-08, according to the study. Clayton State also provided 1,697 jobs during 2008-09.

The study revealed that nearby Gordon College, in Barnesville, contributed $109 million to the regional economy during FY 2009, up from $102 million in 2007-08. Gordon provided 1,052 jobs to the area in 2008-09. Of those jobs, 361 were actually on campus, while 691 existed due to institution-related spending.

"A college or university improves the skills of its graduates, which increases their lifetime earnings. Local businesses benefit from easy access to a large pool of part-time, and full-time, workers," said Humphreys. "In addition, for each job created on a campus, there are 1.6 jobs that exist off-campus, because of spending related to the college or university."

The report identified campus construction at Gordon as having an impact worth millions on the local economy. Gordon's "labor income impact" for 2008-09 was nearly $10 million and provided an additional 208 jobs at a "value added impact" of $13 million. Clayton State's construction projects helped balance the regional economy, by adding 98 jobs in 2008-09, with a "labor income impact" of about $5.6 million and a "value added impact" of roughly $6 million.

The economic benefits of higher-learning institutions play an added role in educational attainment and continued economic growth, according to Henry County Schools Superintendent Michael Surma.

"The Henry County School System has a strong belief that there is a benefit for students, parents, and the entire community for higher education to have local connections in the community," Surma said. "Our entire community has worked with higher education institutions to have locations in Henry County."

Surma noted the school system's latest acquisition of higher education programs for high school students and adults in Henry County. The programs, held at the Academy for Advanced Studies on the Henry County High School campus, include course offerings from Southern Crescent Technical College in Griffin, Clayton State, and Gordon.

"We are, and will continue to be, a strong presence in the regional economic picture," added Lee Fruitticher, Gordon's vice president for business affairs. "The report revealed that, on average, for every dollar of initial spending in a community by a university system institution, an additional 51 cents was generated for the local economy hosting a college or university."

To learn more details of the study, visit the ICAPP web site at www.icapp.org.