Source: Planning Decisions Inc.
The University of New England's economic impact across the state of Maine totaled more than $1 billion for the 2016 academic year that ended June 30, according to a report by Planning Decisions Inc., an independent Portland-based research and planning firm.
The analysis, which has been commissioned by UNE every three years since 2007, measured numerous economic metrics, including employment and payroll, yearly capital expenditures, the ripple effect of UNE's spending and the impact of increased earning power of graduates who stay in Maine.
"Since UNE's first impact statement was prepared in 2007, it has proven itself to be a true engine of growth for Biddeford, for the Greater Portland region and for Maine as a whole," said Charles Lawton, chief economist at Planning Decisions, who prepared UNE's 2016 economic impact analysis as well as its first one in 2007.
In tallying UNE's cumulative economic impact, Lawton reported that UNE-generated economic activities and their indirect impacts generated sales of nearly $470 million for businesses across the state, supporting the equivalent of 3,800 jobs earning total compensation of more than $172 million.
UNE's greatest economic impact rests "in the value of the human capital it creates each year," he added, pegging the human capital impact on Maine at $497 million in 2016. That impact comes from two sources: the flow of new employees into Maine's workforce each year as new employees are hired by the university and the increased earning power of UNE graduates who take jobs in Maine.
Lawton reported the university employed 1,545 people, making it the 20th largest employer in the state, and paid more than $83 million in salary and benefits over the past year.
UNE President Danielle Ripich, who was honored earlier this year as Mainebiz's 2016 nonprofit Business Leader of the Year, told Mainebiz in a telephone interview this morning the 2016 report helps reinforce the mantra she's been repeating since she became president in 2006.
"I say we're a private university with a public mission," she said, highlighting UNE's medical and dental colleges as a foundation of the state's health sciences sector. "I think it is important for a private university to help people be aware of the ways in which we are an important economic engine. It's a way of gaining credibility: You can't say 'We're a little school in the woods' anymore."
Ripich, who announced earlier this year that she will step down from her post on June 30, 2017, said Lawton's report will help the university's recruitment effort to find her successor. "We don't have the 200-year track record of a Bowdoin or Colby College," she said. "When I got here I didn't have any data. Now we've got 10 years of data. I'm hoping it presents a favorable picture for [prospective candidates] and will influence the number and caliber of candidates that we attract."
Ripich added that the economic analyses completed every three years by Planning Decisions since 2007 have served as a benchmark for measuring the impact of the university's growth on the local and state economies.
For example, the 2016 analysis reported UNE's capital facilities impact has averaged nearly $21 million per year over the past five years, with capital expenditures in 2015-16 totaling $49 million. During her tenure as president, the university has built seven new buildings on two Maine campuses and opened three new colleges: the new College of Pharmacy in 2009 and the College of Dental Medicine as well as the new Oral Health Center, which both opened in 2013. Lawton reported those projects have provided a significant source of income for Maine architects, engineers, contractors, tradespeople and vendors.
UNE further enhanced the Maine economy with $42 million generated over the past year in student spending at Maine businesses and an additional $22 million in visitor spending, the report stated.
Ripich said she takes particular pride in the fact that the majority of UNE's out-of-state students end up staying in Maine after they graduated. "We're importing students, bright young people who want to live and work in Maine," she said.
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