A recently released economic analysis by an independent research firm concluded that Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ impact on the economy surpassed $244 million in 2013.
The study’s conclusions arrive at the same time the Colleges are making the fourth consecutive payment to the City of Geneva as part of a 10 year, $1.7 million commitment that was established to assist in balancing the city’s budget. A check for $169,793 was recently presented by HWS President Mark D. Gearan to Geneva City Manager Matt Horn.
“Hobart and William Smith Colleges are proud of the significant and enduring partnership with the City of Geneva, a partnership that extends for more than two centuries,” Gearan says. “The report’s findings are indicative of the strength of our commitments at the local, regional and state level. As we look to the future, the Colleges remain dedicated to ensuring this positive momentum continues.”
The revenue sharing commitment is but one example of the many critical links between the Colleges and the City. One of the most visible and recent examples was in 2012 when HWS moved the Office of Advancement downtown, the largest influx of employees into the City of Geneva in recent history. In the past year, the HWS Office of Communications also moved to the 20 Seneca St. location and plans are now underway to move members of the Colleges’ Information Technology Services downtown.
With the leased space privately owned and on the City tax rolls, the move downtown is indicative of a number of investments that HWS has made locally in recent years, including donations to non-profit organizations and support of civic projects, as well as the revenue sharing commitment.
“The funds provided by HWS under our agreement represent only a fraction of the total contribution of the Colleges to date, and of the commitment they continue to make in fostering economic development and growth in Geneva,” Horn says. “The Colleges’ financial impact has been well-documented and can be felt in nearly every economic and social aspect of the Geneva community. We are proud to host Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and look forward to many more years of continued partnership.”
The figure cited in the analysis, which was conducted by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), includes spending on costs such as labor and construction, as well as spending by students and visitors of the Colleges totaling $21.6 million. With institutional spending of more than $101 million, HWS had a workforce impact representing 1,500 jobs, which included 730 people directly employed by the Colleges.
“The Colleges presence in downtown Geneva is bringing employees that help support local businesses,” says Merry Henry, a Lake to Lake Real Estate agent covering the Geneva area. “The center of the City is now more vibrant and is attracting exciting new businesses. The community is becoming more aware of the positive changes and looks toward Hobart and William Smith to help lead the way.”
In addition to employment and the impact of visitors and students, the CGR report also shows that HWS spent an annual average of $7 million on construction in 2013. In 2014, construction commenced at HWS for a new 65,000-square-foot Performing Arts Center that will become the heart of dance, theatre, music, and film endeavors on campus. Construction is scheduled to be completed in January 2016.
“Hobart and William Smith have been a great partner for the City of Geneva in many different ways,” says John Hicks, executive director of the Business Improvement District (BID). “For both the City and BID, the Colleges have been great in sharing time and service, collaborating on internships and offering expertise on projects in the community. Local spending by the Colleges, students and employees also has a considerable impact, while the campus infrastructure, including athletic venues and the success of the teams, has drawn people to the City and HWS.”
The report also cited the economic impact of the Finger Lakes Region’s independent higher education institutions as the second largest in the state, second only to New York City schools. The Finger Lakes Region, which includes HWS and Rochester area schools such as University of Rochester, contributed a total of $5.6 billion. Across the state, the sector of independent colleges and universities contributed $74.3 billion to New York’s economy, an increase of $11.1 billion since 2011.
“The contribution that the Colleges make to Geneva and the region reaches far greater than its significant economic impact,” says Kelly Mittiga, senior vice president at First Niagara Bank who serves on the boards of the Ontario County Industrial Development Agency and Finger Lakes Health. “The Colleges’ students, faculty and staff are deeply woven into the fabric of this community, and that fabric is stronger as a result. The strong commitment the Colleges have made to this community is one of the many things that make Geneva a wonderful place to live and raise a family.”
Chair of the Boys & Girls Club of Geneva’s Board of Directors Kim Aliperti, who owns Billsboro Winery on the north shore of Seneca Lake, says the Colleges were a factor when she and her husband, Vinny, decided to settle in Geneva. Since then, Aliperti says she has continued to observe the Colleges make a tangible impact locally.
“Not only have I seen HWS students volunteer in my children’s classes – elementary through high school – in multiple community organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club, Geneva Community Projects and Geneva Reads to name a few; and in numerous Days of Service, but we have also employed quite a few HWS students whom we’ve really grown to care about,” Aliperti says.
The CGR study was released this month by the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU). The CICU is a statewide association representing the public policy interests of the chief executives of more than 100 independent colleges and universities in New York State. The Commission is an educational corporation formed under the New York State Regents. Its mission is to develop consensus among a diverse membership and to advance higher education public policy.