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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato


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14,000 students + Mankato area market = $377 million for Mankato and surrounding area

by Austen Rud

Issue date: 10/25/07 Section: Local and State News

Although most students probably don't think about their contribution to the economy of Mankato every time they shell out money for groceries, gas or a night on the town, the 14,000 students attending Minnesota State collectively contribute $377 million to the city every year, according to a Wilder Research study recently released.

The research study, prepared by Paul A. Anton and Allen Burns, created economic impact estimates for spending by the school and students within the university, as well as visitors who come to events or visit friends or relatives who attend the university.

It also looks at MSU's effect on the local labor market and found MSU students put in the work equivalent of 7,157 full-time workers.

Vice President of the Finance and Administration division Richard Straka said he thought it was a conservative impact, but still a reasonable number.

"I'm pretty comfortable with the study, it seems a reasonably valued impact-added based on our approximately 200 million dollar overall budget," he said.

The study builds on a previous study conducted by Wilder research in 2006 that estimated MSU's 2005-2006 impact at $307 million.

According to the 2007 report, an estimate for personal expenses for students from MSU alone was totaled at $119 million for the previous year, including room and board along with personal expenses.

Other colleges in the area such as Bethany, South-Central, Rasmussen and Gustavus - with roughly 5,000 students combined - are expected to contribute a proportional amount to the regional economy each year as well.

With MSU in particular contributing so much business to the local economy, the city is looking at ways to keep these students here after they graduate and bringing past graduates of MSU back into the area.

"We don't have the plan yet," said Executive Director of Greater Mankato Area Chamber of Commerce, Jonathan Zierdt.

Zierdt also said the Mankato area plans to add a full-time Talent Initiatives Director to study and develop ways to retain new graduates and bring graduates back after they leave.

Although a survey in the spring found 49 percent of MSU students wanted to live here after graduation, according to a Career Development Center survey, the retainment rate is actually 15 percent in the Mankato area with 37 percent of total graduates staying in Southern Minnesota for the class of 2005. The survey had an 85.5 percent response rate.

Although the percentage of graduates who choose to stay in Mankato does not reflect the 49 percent statistic of students who want to live here, Zierdt and the city is exploring options and strategies for ways to keep graduates in the area.

"I'd like to keep all 100% here," he said.

Mankato will also be bringing in experts to an Inter-City Leadership meeting Monday and Tuesday, where community CEO's will focus on the talent arena in Mankato over a two day retreat. The primary focus for this program will be coming up with initiatives to turn the community into a large 'campus'. They will also explore various ways to keep students in Mankato and how to create student ties to the community that will encourage them to settle in Mankato after they graduate.

President of MSSA Chris Frederick said he hopes to work with the city on this issue and others in the future.

"One of my primary goals for the year is to build a relationship with the city," Frederick said.

Frederick noted that the city communicates with the school primarily through the president and administration, but not directly with the students.

"We want to get this relationship off the ground and open up the doors of communication because we are such an integral part of this community," Frederick said. "I think there really needs to be some sort of relationship there."

Frederick also concurred with Zierdt that retaining college graduates in the area could be improved. He pointed out a major concern being the lack of entertainment or recreational options for people to do in their spare time, so people look to the cities to fulfill a lot of these needs.

"For a community our size, it feels like there's not a whole lot to do. There's 49 percent of graduating seniors that would like to stay in the community, but there's nothing to keep them."

Austen Rud is a Reporter staff writer