CMU plays growing role in West Slope economy

Universities aren’t usually considered in the same fashion as such major industry sectors as energy production or tourism in quantifying economic effects. And that’s too bad, because universities exert a variety of direct and indirect effects on the economy in the money educational institutes spend as well as the money students and faculty spend.

Fortunately, Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction long has tracked its economic effects in Western Colorado. And as CMU continues to grow, so do the economic effects of the university. The latest results of an economic impact study for the 2013-2014 fiscal year estimate the total effects tops $417 million. In other words, if there were no CMU, you could extract a very large chunk of money from the regional economy with adverse consequences for many local businesses.

Not surprising, spending by the roughly 9,500 students enrolled at CMU constitutes the largest category of direct spending at more than $115 million. That includes money spent on room and board as well as transportation, entertainment and other purchases.

University spending accounted for more than $33.6 million, with an estimated 82 percent of that money staying in Western Colorado. Add another $37.4 million in capital expenditures alone, with more than 86 percent of that spent in Western Colorado. The net wages and salaries paid to faculty and others who work at CMU totaled more than $29.2 million with about 90 percent of that staying in the region. Finally,  nearly $25.4 million was attributed to visitors who come to Grand Junction because of CMU, either to visit students, attend athletic or entertainment events or participate in conferences.

What all the numbers mean is that Western Colorado businesses enjoy the benefits of selling goods and services to CMU and its students and staff. There’s been an added benefit in that the economic effects of CMU have grown steadily even as the effects of other drivers have varied along with the overall economy.

What the analysis doesn’t take into account is the added benefits of CMU in educating the work force and attracting new businesses to the region. That can’t be underestimated.

Business owners and managers — all of us, in fact — have a lot for which to be thankful in working and living in Western Colorado. Count CMU among the biggest blessings.