CMU drives large part of region’s economy
The eye-catching number released last week by Colorado Mesa University regarding the institution’s impact on the regional economy — $351 million — is impressive for a number of reasons.
First, there is the number itself. That’s a substantial economic impact for any organization. It’s not surprising that CMU is both the third-largest employer in the 14-county region of western Colorado it serves and that it continues to be the fastest-growing four-year college or university in the state.
Equally noteworthy, however, is a comparison with the 2003-2004 academic year, the first year Mesa State College, as CMU was known then, produced a regional economic impact report.
Then, the estimated regional impact of the school was $144 million, or 41 percent of that estimated in the lastest report, for the 2011-2012 academic year. Clearly, the university’s growth over the past eight years — in students enrolled, faculty to instruct them, buildings to serve them and academic programs offered to them — has significantly raised CMU’s visibility and its importance to this community.
Additionally, the $351 million figure was arrived at by taking the estimated direct economic impacts of the university of $195 million and using a multiplier of 1.8 to compute indirect impacts. As the CMU study notes, that is a conservative multiplier. Many organizations, when computing economic impact, use multipliers of three, four or even as high as six.
The direct economic impacts are from university spending on goods and services in the region - $25.5 million; employee spending - $20.5 million; student spending - $108.7 million; visitor spending - $21.3 million; and capital projects - $19 million.
But all of these numbers, impressive as they are, fail to show how important an institution such as CMU is to the economy and economic development in another respect. Study after study shows that job-producing companies looking to relocate or start a facility in a new community place the quality of education — both K-12 and higher education — near the top of their lists of community amenities they seek.
CMU’s ability to meet industry needs with specific degree or certification programs is one way it responds to what businesses seek. But its growing list of academic offerings, from technical classes to bachelor’s and graduate programs, are attractive in themselves to businesses and their employees. So are the numerous cultural activities CMU offers.
Beyond that, CMU has long been involved in a number of partnerships with local governments and businesses, using its expertise and resources to perform research to benefit the community.
Additionally, an estimated 41 percent of CMU’s graduates remain in this region, obtaining jobs with important local industries or starting their own businesses that add to the local economy.
CMU is an important driver of this area’s economy and deserves local residents’ continued support.