Key to community
The University of Jamestown contributed about $75 million in economic impact to the community in the 2016-17 school year, according to information released by the university this week. Tena Lawrence, vice president for public relations and marketing, said the contribution is consistent during the 2017-18 school year.
"It's our spending in the community," said Polly Peterson, university president. "It's the families of our students spending in the community when they visit, It's our faculty and students spending in the community, it's the visiting sports teams spending when they come to town."
The information was calculated and presented by Greg Ross, vice president of financial and business affairs at the university, and Peterson. The financial impact calculations are based on faculty and staff wages and benefits of about $14.7 million during the 2016-17 school year. The University of Jamestown employed 713 full- and part-time workers that year including 408 student employees.
This ranked the school seventh in the Stutsman County list of top employers in 2017 which was an increase from a 10th-place ranking in 2011, according to statistics published by North Dakota Job Service.
The university also spends about $5.4 million each year on other expenses within the community. The spending figures do not include an estimated $16.1 million in planned campus improvement and maintenance projects being done this summer.
Along with students working at the university, an estimated 25 percent hold jobs within the community, Lawrence said.
Many of the nursing students gain experience and an income working at medical facilities in Jamestown while a number of the university's law enforcement students fill part-time positions at the Stutsman County Correctional Center or the James River Correctional Center, Lawrence said.
"The student body is a big part of our workforce," said Connie Ove, CEO of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. "I don't think there has been a year that has gone by that we haven't had an intern from the University of Jamestown. We've retained most of them in the community."
Students, whether working or not, have money to spend. Peterson estimated the student body at the university spent about $4.9 million in the community in the 2016 to 2017 school year.
Peterson said the Community Block Party, an annual event scheduled for Aug. 30 this year, is a great opportunity for university students to get to know the community.
"The community part (in the block party) seems to grow," she said. "The churches have booths looking for new people, the business people have booths looking for employees, the banks have booths looking to provide services. For the student to come down and see it all is pretty neat."
The connection between the students and the community aids in recruiting, Lawrence said.
"When I have an opportunity to talk to students and their families it is really easy to say the community embraces the students here," she said.
The community also receives an entertainment benefit from the sporting and cultural events held by the University of Jamestown throughout the year.
Ova said the university has made upgrades to its programs in response to local needs.
"They are very important and have a good partnership with the community," she said. "They looked at what's needed in the community and stepped up. The addition of engineering programs is a huge plus for the area."
Peterson said the university is continuing to explore new programs and degrees to not only increase enrollment but meet workforce needs.
Peterson said on-campus housing is a challenge with all available spaces utilized this fall. Future solutions to the housing crunch could combine student housing and retail space that would serve customers in the northeast part of Jamestown along with providing student housing.
"We're optimistic to explore those things,' Peterson said. "We want the community to continue to believe in us and invest in us."