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University bolsters local economy

Lesley Stevenson | Thursday, October 10, 2013

Notre Dame’s recently released 2013 Economic Impact Report indicates that the partnership between the University and local communities is evolving and thriving.

In a statement, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said maintaining this relationship is crucial for both parties.

“The relationship between our city and Notre Dame is at an all-time high, and these numbers help tell the story,” Buttigieg said. “The local economy benefits hugely from the role of the university.

“That said, I look forward to partnering to find even more and bigger ways to grow our economy around the constant activity and important research that takes place at Notre Dame.”

The Economic Impact Report, released Sept. 25 and based on data from 2012, puts the University’s total economic impact per year in St. Joseph County at $1.167 billion. Student, visitor and University spending contributed to that amount, associate vice president for public affairs Tim Sexton said.

“When you put out a number of over $1.1 billion of economic impact, I mean that’s huge,” he said. “But it’s also huge because in order for us to have this kind of an impact, we need … the support of the community.

“This is a two-way street. We can’t do a lot of what we do here at the University without the local community.”

Jessica Brookshire, associate director for public affairs, led a University team that worked with New York-based consulting group Appleseed to collect and analyze data from more than 80 individuals on campus, as well as sources off campus such as Visit South Bend Mishawaka. The University publishes a report every five years through a process that takes more than seven months, Brookshire said.

“One thing that was really cool was to go back and look at the one from five years ago and see what was in it,” Brookshire said. “Back then Eddy Street Commons was an idea, basically. An artist rendering was the picture. It was not in existence, neither was Compton Family Ice Arena.”

Sexton said the University added 700 jobs, and construction costs averaged $95 million per year for the last five years. Money spent for research increased by 92 percent since the previous report, he said.

“Being the fact that the University has its five goals and one of those goals is a preeminent research institution, it will not surprise me to see the research dollar continue to climb and continue to grow going forward in the next five years,” Sexton said. “I think that that construction component again will be extremely significant.”

Appleseed president Hugh O’Neill, who worked on the Economic Impact Report this year and in 2007, said the findings about research set Notre Dame apart from other universities that have teamed up with the company.

“We’ve worked with a number of different universities that have larger research programs and higher total research spending than Notre Dame does but there aren’t many that have been as successful as Notre Dame has in expanding its research activities in the past 10 years,” he said.

Sexton said the report incorporated data from the Center for Social Concerns and Engage ND to measure volunteer work and offered another insight into the town and gown dynamic.

“When it comes to the amount of service hours, we put that at 511,000 hours that was contributed by our students, by our faculty, by our staff,” he said. “I will not be surprised to see those service hours continue to grow, because that’s just who we are as a university. I have no doubt that that will occur.”

Brookshire said the report includes football weekend statistics that reflect the high amount of visitors to South Bend and Mishawaka and the economic boon those visitors offer.

“It’s about $18 million per home game, and that’s very significant to businesses locally and people that are thinking about opening business here in town,” she said.

The economic impact of visitors to campus in general was markedly different from that of most other universities, O’Neill said.

“Notre Dame is not alone but is at the high end of the range in terms of the extent to which the University is bringing money and resources into the South Bend area from all over the country and the extent to which that money has been spent locally,” he said. “That really enhances and strengthens the University’s contribution to the local economy.”

Visit South Bend Mishawaka communications and public relations coordinator Lindsey Talboom said the increased economic activity of the University and its visitors as well as collaborations between the University, South Bend and Mishawaka have created an environment full-time residents and visitors alike can enjoy.

“I can only see it growing really,” she said. “There’s clearly an investment that’s bridging the divide.”

Sexton emphasized the importance of maintaining that connection from the University perspective.

“The University of Notre Dame and our relationship with our local community is paramount and I think that this report does a great job of showing how we are intertwined for the positive,” he said. “The success of the University is directly correlated to the success of the local community.”