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Study says Brenau, Gainesville State boost local economy
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A recent study of the University System of Georgia shows that state colleges and universities generate not only knowledge but an economic boost to their communities — to the tune of $11 billion.

The study looked at data from July 1, 2006, through June 30, 2007, at the 35 University System of Georgia institutions to analyze what effect the schools had on the economy.

Brenau University can claim $84 million and Gainesville State College had a $152 million impact during fiscal year 2007. The University of Georgia had the largest single impact on the economy at $2.1 billion, according to a release.

Jeff Humphreys, director of economic forecasting for the Selig Center at the University of Georgia, who conducted the study, said it is based on three main factors.

The first was spending for personnel, such as salaries and benefits. He also looked at how those employees spend that money in the local economy. The second was all other spending by the school on things such as utilities and supplies. The third was how much students spend.

"Students are the champions" of spending at Gainesville State, Humphreys said. "They’re the ones really driving the economic impact of the institution."

At Gainesville State last year, personnel accounted for $42 million in spending, while students accounted for about $90 million. He said this is not always the case at every school, however.

One of the most important ways an institution affects its community is by creating jobs, both on and off campus, Humphreys said.

"A lot of off-campus jobs owe their existence to the presence of Gainesville State, even though many of the people who hold those jobs don’t even realize it," he said.

There are two people working off campus for every one person working on campus in a job associated with Gainesville State. There are 507 on-campus jobs, while 1,051 jobs exist because of the school.

"There are people who take the local college or university for granted. They don’t realize how much economic vitality comes from an institution," he said.

Humphreys said this is not a complete study, because it only considers certain aspects of a school’s economic activity but does not consider others, such as visitor spending and the value of students with degrees to the communities.

The Intellectual Capital Partnership Program, an initiative of the Board of Regents’ Office of Economic Development, commissioned the Selig Center for Economic Growth in the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business to conduct the study.