PORTLAND, Ore. – A new study of the size and scope of Oregon State University’s contributions to the economy and society shows the Corvallis-based institution’s economic footprint now totals $2.06 billion – more than $1.93 billion of that in Oregon – making it the largest recorded impact by any four-year university in this state.
Despite the financial realities of a depressed state and worldwide economy, OSU’s economic impact has grown by almost $500 million – an increase of 33 percent – from similar research undertaken five years ago. And along with the release of findings from the new study, OSU is introducing five new initiatives to further its economic and quality-of-life contributions to Oregon.
Conducted by the ECONorthwest consulting firm, the analysis noted significant, across-the-board increases at OSU that enhance its singular impact on Oregon, as well as its effects on the nation and world. The state’s largest public research university, OSU last year became the only Oregon institution to simultaneously hold the Carnegie Foundation’s top ranking for research universities, as well as its prestigious “community engagement” designation for extensive service to the public.
“Our increasingly profound impact on this state and its people is gratifying to see quantified in such concrete terms that illustrate the effectiveness of our strategic focus and the hard work of the faculty, students and staff,” said OSU President Ed Ray, himself an economist. “A driving factor in our quest to become one of America’s top 10 land grant universities is the recognition that upon reaching that status we will be able to provide even greater benefit to Oregon and the world beyond. This study indicates we’re making enormous progress and we are positioned for deeper and broader impact in the future.”
Since its last similar study, OSU has added more than $50 million in research funding, some 25,000 alumni, more than 5,000 students and a dozen spinoff businesses. The net effect is an institution that in this year’s 150th anniversary of the establishment of land grant universities is fulfilling its historic mission to serve the people of Oregon in unprecedented ways: through job creation, graduation of ever-growing numbers of individuals prepared for significant impact in the workplace and discovery of solutions to real-world problems facing communities around the state.
“OSU's economic contributions take many forms,” said John Tapogna, president of ECONorthwest. “Whether it’s building the skills of an emerging workforce or sparking innovation in engineering, forestry and agriculture, the university has played a central role in strengthening the state's short- and long-term economic prospects.”
Among the key findings from the new ECONorthwest analysis:
- Jobs. In addition to the almost 15,000 individuals employed by OSU last year, the university was responsible for about 18,000 jobs in Linn and Benton counties and around the rest of the state. More than 5,600 of those jobs were a direct result of OSU’s presence. The university also now produces more than 4,600 graduates annually, many of them prepared to compete in some of today’s most lucrative job markets, as evidenced by a recent survey showing that OSU graduates earn significantly more at mid-career than those of any other four-year university in Oregon.
- Expenditures. Through its payroll, student spending, purchases of goods and services, capital spending and visitor purchases, OSU infuses about $1.09 billion annually into Oregon’s economy. And those effects are not limited to Corvallis. For instance, about $100 million of $133 million the university spent on capital projects and equipment in fiscal year 2011 went to Portland engineering, architectural and construction firms and materials suppliers. Likewise, OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center was instrumental in attracting the NOAA Marine Operations Center – Pacific fleet to Newport last year.
- Research. OSU research funding over the past two fiscal years alone has totaled nearly $540 million – significantly more than all other campuses of the Oregon University System combined. And the university is translating that research into innovations fueling business creation and growth, with more than 100 actives licenses of OSU discoveries. OSU faculty have earned 227 patents over the past 40 years, and that activity is a major reason why Corvallis was cited as “America’s most innovative city” in a 2010 study from Los Alamos National Laboratory. The ECONorthwest study indicated that every dollar invested in OSU research generates between $1.20 and $1.67 in benefits to society in Oregon, the U.S. and the world.
- Cluster economies. OSU academic and research strengths align closely with many of the “industry clusters” identified in the Oregon Business Plan and the city of Portland’s economic strategy as points of focus for economic development: Activewear & Outdoor Gear Industries, Natural Resource Industries, Advanced Manufacturing Industries, High Tech Industries and Clean/Green Technology Industries. Businesses within those clusters have a built-in advantage in leveraging OSU’s strengths: Industries partnering with research universities such as Oregon State enjoy a 25 percent increase in economic success and employment compared with those businesses not associated with a research campus, according to ECONorthwest research.
- Alumni. OSU alumni today number 170,000 and more than 40,000 of those reside in the greater Portland area – the largest concentration of Oregon State graduates anywhere. They make major contributions to the economic vitality of Oregon businesses, from Silicon Forest companies focused on high-tech innovation to eastern Oregon agricultural concerns to businesses developing wave energy projects on the Pacific Coast. ECONorthwest’s study, which included an alumni survey that has drawn nearly 6,000 responses, showed median earnings roughly 50 percent greater than the national median pay of the rest of the population.
OSU leaders say the findings substantiate the effects of the university in Oregon and beyond, and make it clear that the university is well-positioned to do more to help shape Oregon’s future. They announced five new initiatives along with the study findings.
- University/industry partnerships. OSU will expand efforts to support economic recovery by accelerating research-based partnerships and innovation. The university engaged industry in a record level of research support in 2011, and seeks to build on this through new outreach capacity in the offices of Research and Commercialization and Corporate Development.
- Public health/disease prevention. Through its colleges of Public Health and Human Sciences, Pharmacy and Veterinary Medicine, OSU is building deep capacity to focus on Oregon health challenges, improve the lives of children and families and help prevent disease. This will be most visible in Portland, where pharmacy programs will have a new home in the Collaborative Life Science Building, in construction now on the waterfront.
- Engagement and outreach education. As the OSU Extension Service begins its second century, it is partnering with community colleges, business, school districts and local governments to meet educational needs through the new Oregon Open Campus initiative and Extended Campus courses and degree offerings.
- Portland regional strategy. OSU’s growing presence and engagement in Portland will be enhanced through a Portland regional strategy, in development since last summer. The strategy will focus on what Portland needs and wants from OSU, and how the university can best assist in meeting metro-area needs.
- Sharing OSU science/helping leaders chart a course. Through a new series of community forums launching this year, OSU will provide context and greater knowledge on major scientific tops to better inform policy-makers, business and the public. On issues ranging from water policy to food production to alternative energy, OSU scientific leaders will share not only their knowledge, but the “state of the science” more broadly.
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