VALDOSTA -- Valdosta State University will pump more than $248 million into the area economy for the 2001 fiscal year, according to a study released by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business.

Statewide, University System of Georgia institutions will contribute an estimated $8 billion through spending on capital projects and by students.

VSU is the seventh largest economic engine among Georgia's 34 public institutions. As expected, the state's three largest schools -- the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia State University -- top the list.

The study calculated spending by the institutions themselves on salaries and operating expenses, capital projects and spending from students to determine overall economic impact, and found for every dollar spent by a system institution, an extra 56 cents was generated for the local economy.

Ray Devery, VSU's vice president for institutional advancement said the numbers, while good indicators of fiscal importance, only scratch the surface of the university's overall contribution to local economies

"I think the fact that we did pump in $248 million into our regional economy has a tremendous impact," he said. "That's hard dollars. That's not talking about the soft dollars we generate. When you say $248 million, that's significant, but in reality it's higher than that."

Jeffery Humphreys -- the UGA professor who designed the study -- agrees, noting that his study is a conservative estimate because it does not include difficult-to-quantify figures such as spending by people who visit system campuses to attend meetings or athletic events, spending by employees who retire in the area, or income generated by employees through consulting or other activities.

"Colleges and universities not only spend money year by year, but also have long-term impacts on the labor force, local business and industry and local government," he wrote. "A college or university improves the skills of its graduates, thereby increasing their productivity and their lifetime earnings; and local businesses benefit from easy access to a large pool of part-time and full-time workers."

Job creation is another indicator of economic impact, and the study credits VSU with generating 1,192 on-campus jobs while also bringing another 2,037 jobs to the area through institution related spending. The study calculated both full- and part-time positions.

All told, the system generated $3.7 billion in labor income in 2001, with more than half of new jobs coming off-campus in either the public or private sector. Georgia's colleges and universities accounted for 2.8 percent of all the jobs in the state over the last fiscal year.

Devery said the university serves an important role, not only in attracting businesses, but also in keeping skilled graduates in the area.

"When companies come to relocate, they're looking for two things: quality of life in the community and a good source of labor," he said. "If the university is turning out a top quality person that can fix into the mix that company is looking for, it will obviously keep people here. I don't think Convergys would be here if this wasn't a university town."

Those numbers are down from fiscal year 2000, but Devery said they should bounce back with new hires and additional enrollment.

In fact, numbers across the entire system dropped between 2000 and 2001, something Humphreys finds to be insignificant and within the margin of error for the study.

"The bottom line is that, from a statistical perspective, a 2 percent change really is not significant. Basically the study suggests that the impact in 2001 was about the same as in 2000," he said.

VSU dropped from a total economic output of $284 million in 2000 to $248 million in 2001, but the discrepancy is due to the lack of capital construction projects during the last fiscal year.

Humphreys' study assessed VSU's economic impact on a six-county area including Lowndes, Berrien, Brooks, Cook, Echols and Lanier counties.





To contact reporter Bill Roberts, please call (229) 244-3400, ext. 245.

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