As businesses, government leaders and citizens of Georgia seek solutions to the state’s lingering economic troubles, public colleges and universities continue to provide a bright spot.
According to a newly released report, the University of West Georgia contributed $364 million to the regional economy over the past fiscal year. The study also said that statewide, a $12.7 billion economic boost came from institutions of the University System of Georgia, which commissioned the study.
UWG, one of 35 institutions in the statewide system, also accounted for more than 3,340 jobs, which created a labor income impact of $152 million in the region.
As lack of job growth has been one of the most frustrating factors dogging the economy, the report found that Georgia’s public higher education system generated 112,336 full- and part-time jobs in the past fiscal year – nearly 3 percent of all jobs in the state.
The report said that most of those jobs (62 percent) are non-campus based positions in the public or private sector that exist because of a USG institution’s presence in its community. The remainder are on-campus jobs.
Spending by USG institutions on salaries and benefits, supplies and other expenses, as well as spending by students, generated most of the $12.7 billion in economic impact.
Locally, UWG’s economic influence has been tangible and valuable. As the region continues to endure a fiscal sluggishness, the $364 million impact made by UWG was a 5 percent gain over the prior year.
Construction projects and retail support by the university and its students and employees put money directly into the local economy.
By creating an educated work force, UWG makes the area attractive to businesses and helps bolster the regional tax base. Businesses that rely on specialized skills value close proximity to universities. Many of those businesses are knowledge-based organizations that are expected to lead future economic growth.
UWG’s impact extends well beyond its Carrollton main campus. Its center in Newnan also creates vital economic activity.
“There is no question that the university’s Newnan Center is having an impact on the local economy. Students from more than 50 counties currently attend the Newnan Center,” said Cathy Wright, the center’s director. “When class is over or during breaks, they head over to Ashley Park and other nearby shopping areas for great shopping and excellent restaurants. This summer’s enrollment of 622 is the highest summer enrollment in the center’s history and is a 9 percent increase over spring 2010’s enrollment.”
UWG's economic impact ranked it seventh among USG institutions, but when considering the fact that some of the institutions ranked ahead of UWG are in much more populous and economically developed areas, UWG's impact grows in stature.
It’s worth noting that the research does not take into account the long-term benefits that a university provides to its community, nor does it measure benefits such as cultural, intellectual and community-service impact. Also not measured is spending by university retirees who live near campus, visitors to the institution and the effect of additional income generated by university employees, such as from consulting work and other personal business.
But it’s clear that a university’s economic impact is vital and sustainable to its region’s health.