Study: CMU contributes $468.7 million to regional economy

Tim Foster, President Colorado Mesa University
Tim Foster, President
Colorado Mesa University

Phil Castle, The Business Times

As Colorado Mesa University continues to grow, so do the effects of CMU on the Western Colorado economy.

The latest results of an economic impact study estimate the total direct and indirect effects of the university reaches nearly $469 million.

CMU President Tim Foster hailed the numbers at a media conference in downtown Grand Junction announcing the results. But the overall objective of the university remains the same, he said. “The most important thing we do is educate students.”

CMU conducts a regional study every two years to analyze the effects of the university on the Western Colorado economy. The total estimated effect of $468.7 million for the 2017-2018 fiscal year constitutes a 4.7 percent increase over the estimated $447.5 million CMU contributed to the economy during the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

The study quantifies direct spending in five categories — the university, employees, students, capital projects and visitors. The study then uses a multiplier of 1.8 to calculate the effects of that spending as money moves through the economy.

For the 2017-2018 fiscal year, university expenditures in Colorado for everything from furniture to office supplies to utilities totaled $45.1 million. Of that, $34.3 million was spent in Western Colorado.

CMU spent nearly $46.3 million on employee wages and salaries and estimated that employees spent $29.9 million in Western Colorado on housing, transportation and other expenditures.

Student expenditures remained the largest the single category of direct spending. Out of a total of $142.3 million in estimated annual spending for room, board, transportation and other expenses, $128.1 million remained in the regional economy.

CMU spent $24.7 million on capital projects that included classroom construction, technology upgrades and parking. Of that, $22.1 million was spent in Western Colorado.

Another $45.9 million in economic effects was attributed to visitors to CMU who come to Grand Junction for athletic and cultural events, conferences and other activities. The University Center at CMU hosted more than 425,000 visitors, while other facilities and events attracted an estimated 137,000 visitors.

Direct spending in the five categories came to $260.3 million. Multiplying that number by 1.8 resulted in the total estimated economic effect of $477.7 million.

Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said the latest numbers make the chamber happy because they reflect increased business for companies large and small.

Paul Petersen, general manager of the Mesa Mall in Grand Junction, said CMU has a “very large” effect on businesses in the mall. Those businesses also rely on CMU students to fill job openings.  “Overall, CMU brings a lot to the table,” Petersen said.

LuAnn Harrah, president of Harrahs Salon, said the family owned business has been located near what’s now CMU for more than 30 years and relied on business from students and faculty. The business also has hired students to handle everything from cleaning to accounting. “The impact it has in the community is huge,” Harrah said.

David Foster, co-owner of Kiln Coffee, hosted the media conference because his operation offers another example of how CMU effects local businesses.

Foster said the growth of CMU and student enrollment there was an attraction for him and his brother, Jonathan. “It directly influenced our decision to open a small business here in Grand Junction.”