Monthly Column June 2016
Dalton State Makes Valuable Contributions to Local Economy
We received great news last month about Dalton State’s economic impact on the northwest Georgia region. For the first time in several years our impact grew over the preceding year, and it grew significantly. For the 2015 fiscal year, the number of dollars pumped into the regional economy grew more than 12 percent to more than $120 million.
The College’s impact has remained flat or dipped the past several years, pretty much tracking the sluggish local economy as well as the College’s own enrollment numbers. Last fall enrollment was up about 5 percent, the first positive movement in several years. It looks as though things are moving in the right direction, and we hope the trend continues.
The economic impact study is released each year by the Selig Center for Economic Growth of the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business. On a macro level, it reports the impact of all 31 University System of Georgia institutions on the state’s economy, and on a micro level, it reports the impact of each individual institution on its particular geographic region. Our region includes the counties of Whitfield, Murray, Catoosa, Gordon, Walker and Gilmer.
The local report looks at two areas: initial spending by Dalton State on items such as salaries, benefits, operating supplies, and expenses, and re-spending, the multiplier effect of those initial dollars as they are spent again within the region.
Our initial spending for 2015 amounted to just over $106 million with an additional $14 million in re-spending. It is interesting to note that nearly $70 million of the total impact is attributed to student spending. I am not an economist, but this suggests to me two things: that students are significant contributors to the regional economy, and that they are spending their dollars within northwest Georgia.
These facts did not go unnoticed by Greater Dalton Chamber President Rob Bradham who said he was “blown away by the growth of the college’s economic impact in our region…and most impressed with the increase in student spending.” Dr. Larry Johnson, dean of Dalton State’s School of Business and an economist explained that Dalton State’s economic gains over previous years “is likely due to the College’s transition from a commuter college to a more traditional four-year institution.”
Add to these raw numbers the value of programming Dalton State brings to the community in the way of concerts, plays, book talks, lectures, summer camps, hiking trails, and intercollegiate athletics. While not as easy to quantify in financial terms they no doubt contribute to the quality of life we enjoy in our community.
Consider also the long term sustaining impact of an educated talent pool to feed local workforce needs. Dalton State graduated approximately 730 students during the last academic year, many of whom will remain in this region working as teachers, nurses, accountants, managers, chemists, and more. And even though many of those graduates were the first in their family to earn a college degree, their children will be highly likely to attend college.
We’re proud to be such an important economic engine for the community and the region, and we hope this year’s positive report is just the beginning of an upward trend.