A study released Thursday says South Puget Sound Community College had a $316.1 million impact on Thurston County during fiscal year 2014-15.
“We know about the impact we have on the lives of our students, so we are happy to see this impact validated through this data that reveals the tremendous value of higher education in Thurston County,” Tim Stokes, president of the Olympia-based college, said in a news release.
The $15,000 study was completed by Economic Modeling Specialists International, according to college spokeswoman Kelly Green.
It looked at the college’s operations spending, student spending and the impact of its alumni who stay in the area and purchase goods and services. The study measured spending from July 2014 to June 2015.
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The college serves more than 7,000 students at its main campus in Olympia and its Lacey campus, which opened in fall 2015.
According to the findings, SPSCC’s economic mark on the community included:
▪ $34 million from day-to-day operations, spending, payroll and benefits.
▪ $12.6 million from current students.
▪ $269.4 million generated by alumni working in the region.
The study stated that SPSCC’s total economic contribution to Thurston County represented about 2.9 percent of the total gross regional product, which is equal to 5,223 jobs.
“When you stack that up with other sectors in Thurston County, it’s one of our major drivers,” said Michael Cade, executive director with the Thurston County Economic Development Council. “It’s pretty significant.”
Jessica Van Hatcher, a spokeswoman for Diamond Technology Innovations on Olympia’s west side, said SPSCC boosts its impact by working closely with businesses in the community.
“I think that they’ve done a great job with really listening to what the local businesses need,” Van Hatcher said. “They really ask the businesses in the area, ‘What’s going to drive economic growth?’ ”
The manufacturing company helped establish the college’s engineering program, and at least five of its nearly 50 workers are SPSCC graduates.
“We actually hired the very first graduate out of that program,” Van Hatcher said.
In 2013, The Evergreen State College commissioned a similar study from ECONorthwest of Portland. It estimated that the four-year liberal arts college on Olympia’s west side generated more than $100 million a year in net economic activity and hundreds of jobs in the state.
Evergreen’s study also noted that its students’ off-campus spending brought in about $52 million a year to Thurston County.
Saint Martin’s University in Lacey hasn’t done an economic impact report in several years, but Cade said it’s also a major economic driver. For instance, the private Benedictine university expects to pay more than $20 million in salaries and benefits this year, according to Edward Barton, vice president of finance.
To view a copy of SPSCC’s study, go to spscc.edu/impact.