Economic Development and Higher Education

GVSU’s annual economic impact: $780M

New construction is a big part of it, but alumni spending is not included.

May 6, 2016
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Grand Valley State University
Grand Valley State University’s campuses include 3,459 employees and 25,325 students. Courtesy Experience Grand Rapids

The value of an education cannot always be measured in dollars — but the value of an educational institution can.

Grand Valley State University, for example, has an annual economic impact of about $780 million on the tri-county region, according to a report released during the university’s board of trustees meeting last week.

The report details the effect GVSU’s students, faculty and staff had on the economy in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

“We do this report to make sure that there’s a broad understanding as to what it means to a community to have a public campus or university in town,” said Matt McLogan, GVSU university relations vice president.

“The presence of the university is important to the economy and is a great stabilizing factor. It’s no accident that if you overlay a map of public university campuses in Michigan, you’ll find the most vibrant, stable communities are the ones that host them.”

The $780 million figure is a 6.85 percent increase on 2013-14’s estimated regional impact of $730 million, an increase McLogan said could be attributed to the university’s additions to staff, larger enrollment numbers and significant construction projects, such as the recently opened P. Douglas Kindschi Hall of Science.

The university’s 3,459 employees and 25,325 students are major reasons for Grand Valley’s significant contributions to the economy, with approximately $242.4 million allocated for faculty and staff salary in the area, and student expenditures estimated at $178.6 million, according to the report.

Grand Valley’s numerous construction projects also contribute greatly to the region’s economy. New construction and renovations brought more than $75 million into the local economy and created about 1,579 trade and construction jobs last year, the report stated.

Additional construction projects include:

  • The completion of the $37 million Holton-Hooker Learning and Living Center, which will be available to students beginning this fall.
  • A $7.8 million expansion to the Recreation Center, scheduled to be completed in August.
  • A $20 million expansion and renovation project to the Allendale campus’ Performing Art Center, which includes a two-story, 44,000-square-foot addition.

Although the economic impact of alumni was not factored into the report’s total findings, Grand Valley also is a pipeline of talent into the area, McLogan said, with nearly half of GVSU’s more than 102,000 alumni remaining in the tri-county area after graduation.

“The Grand Rapids area has become the kind of community in which new grads want to live,” he said. “The amenities that are available, housing options, downtown activities and the types of employment offered weigh heavily on students who graduate from Grand Valley and, increasingly, our grads are becoming the reason for population stability and increased population here in West Michigan.”

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