Saint Joseph's as an economic engine

What is the college's impact as a "business"?

by Brent Wooten

Nearly 15,000 people have earned degrees at Saint Joseph’s College since its founding, and these alumni now live and work in 50 states and 25 countries.

While that’s a sizeable educational contribution, the college is also a significant economic contributor to the surrounding communities. To quantify that contribution, the college commissioned its first economic impact study in May.

According to the study, as both the money the college pays directly to employees and vendors and the money spent by students, their families and visitors flow through the local, regional and state economies, their economic and fiscal impact grow ever larger. The direct impact of the college payroll becomes – indirectly – payroll for businesses such as local grocery stores and local banks and doctors’ offices and restaurants. The same holds true for the money paid to college vendors and for the money spent by college students and their families and friends when they come to visit. In short, the total impact of the college includes both the direct impact of its own spending and the indirect impacts of the flow of its spending.

“Considering its total annual operating budget of nearly $30 million and its full-time equivalent employment of over 300, Saint Joseph’s College is among the largest businesses in the Greater Portland area. Its total economic impact on the region amounts to over $56 million in business sales supporting 700 local jobs. Even more important over the long term is the college’s impact on the quality of the region’s labor force. Over 2,000 of the college’s graduates have stayed in Maine, putting their skills to work in local enterprises, raising families and contributing to the vitality of many communities.” Charles Lawton, chief economist, Planning Decisions, Inc.

The following are some of the highlights of this important study.

  • The college has assets of roughly $65 million, an annual operating budget of approximately $27 million, employs 608 people (full- and part- time) whose salaries and benefits total nearly $16 million. Counting its annual budget of $27 million as “sales,” the college is among the larger businesses in the Greater Portland economy.
  • Over the past eight years, the college has invested over $30 million in new buildings and nearly $5 million in new vehicles and new academic and athletic equipment. This investment will continue as enrollment grows.
  • Students, their family and friends spend money in the local economy, adding approximately $1.8 million to the purely “business” impact of the college.
  • The payroll, operational, investment and student/visitor spending add up to a direct economic impact on the State of Maine of approximately $31 million (2007 figures).
  • The total impact of Saint Joseph’s College (direct plus indirect) on the State of Maine amounts to more than $56 million in sales to businesses in the state; almost 700 full-time jobs for people; over $26 million in personal income; and $3.5 million in tax revenues for state and local governments.

Although impressive, these measurements do not quantify the most significant impact the college has on Maine’s economy. More than 2,000 Saint Joseph’s graduates live and work in Maine (nearly 500 in the Greater Portland area) – an important element of the college’s economic impact, however challenging it may be to quantify. These graduates and future ones will live the rest of their lives with greater knowledge and skills. Research shows that because they are college-educated, they are certain to earn higher incomes, enjoy longer, healthier and happier lives and contribute more to their communities. In that regard, Saint Joseph’s College has an impact that is truly immeasurable.