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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

New study says URI is major economic engine for state

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

University generated $518 million in economic activity in 2002


KINGSTON, R.I. -- August 17, 2004 -- The University of Rhode Island generated about $518 million in economic activity statewide in 2002, nearly $5 for every $1 in state support for the University, according to a new report, A Partner for Prosperity: the University of Rhode Island’s Impact on the Economy of the Ocean State.

“These statistics show in a very clear way the importance of URI to the health and prosperity of our state,” said URI President Robert L. Carothers. “The report also shows that the University can be a powerful engine for economic development in Rhode Island, creating the kind of high paying, clean jobs we all seek.”

“We initiated this study because we wanted the people of Rhode Island to realize that the University of Rhode Island is an incredibly valuable resource,” said Janett Trubatch, URI’s vice provost for graduate studies, research and outreach. Appleseed Inc., a New York City consulting firm that works with non-profit organizations, corporations and governments interested in expanding economic growth, prepared the 44-page report.

“One of our missions at URI is to enhance the state’s economic development and its societal health and well-being, and this report clearly shows that we have a major impact in each of these areas,” Trubatch said.

Published earlier this year, the report says that in 2002 URI paid $46.6 million to Rhode Island businesses for goods and services, including construction.

Between 1998 and 2003, research spending at URI increased by 56 percent (an average of 9.4 percent annually) to a total of $60.4 million. About 85 percent of the total was funded from federal contracts, making federally funded research an important growth business for the Ocean State. That research can also lead to the development of new business ventures, the report said. URI faculty, staff and students have translated research into 21 new companies and many new jobs in the state over the last several years.

Students are also a vital part of the economic story, according to the report. They spent $37 million off campus for housing, food, entertainment and miscellaneous needs. “That $37 million is money spent in and around the campus and in other parts of the state,” Trubatch said. “Earlier this year, we met with the South Kingstown Economic Development Committee, and its members were impressed with these numbers.”

Bruce Keiser, director of administrative services in South Kingstown, who serves as the staff representative for the town ‘s Economic Development Committee, said: “Speaking on behalf of the committee, our reaction was very positive. We were aware that URI played a role in the local economy, but the report provides extensive documentation of a much greater impact.”

He said the data on the multiplier effect of student spending was new information. “The magnitude was much greater than what we had initially thought. Overall, the report demonstrates that the vitality of the economy of South Kingstown would be very different without the University.”

He added that strengthening the URI-South Kingstown connection could lead to more mutual business and economic development collaborations. “Overall, the report dramatizes the critical role URI plays in the community’s well-being. And we are clearly excited about the University’s initiatives to support commercialization of faculty research,” Keiser said.

“The University of Rhode is the Ocean State’s largest higher education institution, the leading supplier of college educated workers to the Rhode Island work force – a major employer of Rhode Island residents – one of the state’s leading research centers—and a vitally important mechanism for transferring useful knowledge from University labs and lecture halls to individuals, companies and communities throughout the state,” the report says. “In all of these roles, the University is a major contributor to the continuing development of Rhode Island economy.”

In addition to the University’s contributions to the state’s economic health, it also plays a major role in improving the economic fortunes of its individual citizens. The 2000 census found that Rhode Islanders with four-year college degrees earned an average of $38,500, or 84 percent more than those with no formal education beyond high school. About 20 percent of all Ocean State residents with four-year degrees or higher are URI graduates. With 37,554 alumni living in Rhode Island, the University has more graduates within the state’s borders than the state’s three largest private colleges—Brown, Johnson and Wales and Providence College. Forty five percent of all URI alumni live in Rhode Island.

Another major pillar of URI’s role as the state’s public university is outreach. There are 400 outreach programs serving communities throughout the state including those that: help improve the level of math and science education in elementary and secondary schools; assist individuals with serious illnesses and help them manage their medications; protect our natural resources through such initiatives as Watershed Watch and the Narragansett Bay Partnership and help make Rhode Island businesses more productive and competitive.

Work done in University labs or work done by its faculty can lead to creation of new business. In 2002, the Research Office’s Division of Industrial Research and Technology received 21 invention disclosures, filed nine new patent applications, obtained five patents and negotiated one agreement for commercial use of technology. And the General Assembly’s passage of the Public-Private Partnership Act makes it easier for the University to play an active role in the process of technology transfer to new and expanding businesses.

URI has for years helped businesses compete more effectively. The URI Center for Pollution Prevention and Environmental Health helps companies reduce costs while at the same time eliminating pollution through chemical engineering management strategies. The center estimates that direct savings have totaled $5 million over a 10-year period.

The Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design operates a textile testing laboratory, which allows companies to test their products against a variety of performance and technical standards.

URI’s Fisheries Extension program works closely with the state’s commercial fishing industry. There are about 4,500 commercial fishing licensees in the state. In December 2003, URI’s collaboration with the fishing industry became even stronger as its College of the Environment and Life Sciences and five industry organizations collaborated to establish the Rhode Island Commercial Fisheries Center at URI’s East Farm. The University is leasing the facility to the five associations for $1 a year.

URI economic impact report fact sheet

Additional facts from A Partner for Prosperity: The University of Rhode Island’s Impact on the Economy of the Ocean State.

• Between 1998 and 2003, the University spent an average of $35.8 million annually on construction.

• During the next five years, the impact of University construction is likely to increase. Planned construction spending for fiscal years 2004 through 2008 is expected to total $221 million, an average of $44 million annually.

• In 2002, URI generated $2 in economic activity at other Rhode Island businesses for every dollar the state contributed to the University’s budget.

• Including the University’s own operating revenue of $309.2 million, URI generated more than $517.8 million in statewide economic activity – almost five times the state’s investment of $104.3 million.

• At least 50,000 people visit URI each year, and that annual spending by visitors totals about $10 million each year.

For Further Information: Janett Trubatch 401-874-4576