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Report: Atlanta-area Colleges Strengthen Economic Draw Of City

Colleges in the Atlanta area alone have an annual economic impact of more than $10.8 billion on the state of Georgia, around $1,200 for every man, woman and child in the state, according to a new report released Wednesday.

The study by the Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education is being used by state leaders to tout the Atlanta metro area as the ideal location for new businesses to set up shop.

“We are a university town, and that is a very, very helpful marketing tool in attracting business to our area,” says Craig S. Lesser, commissioner of the state’s Department of Economic Development.

“They want to know before they come here or invest millions of dollars” that they will find a highly educated work force, he says.

Lesser and other officials unveiled the new study at the Atlantic Station shopping and living area near the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. ARCHE officials say they chose to hold the announcement at the upscale Atlantic Station, which was once a polluted steel mill, because it shows the impact colleges have on neighborhoods and cities.

Atlantic Station was the brainchild of a Georgia Tech graduate student and is home to thousands of college students who want private, off-campus housing.

The study included 49 separate degree-granting institutions, a cluster of schools with a total enrollment of more than 200,000. They range from two-year public schools to private, for-profit colleges.

According to the report, Atlanta ranks 6th among U.S. metro areas in producing college and university graduates with at least a bachelor’s degree.

The colleges annually create nearly 130,000 new jobs statewide, the report says. The campuses attract an estimated 5.7 million visits each year for campus tours, commencement ceremonies and cultural and athletic events.

The colleges annually spend $740 million to erect new academic buildings and dorms, creating more than 7,100 new construction-related jobs statewide, the report says.

Included in the study were research powerhouses like the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University and Emory University; historically Black colleges like Morehouse College and Spelman College; and liberal arts institutions like Agnes Scott College and Oglethorpe University.

ARCHE President Michael A. Gerber says this is the first time the total power of the city’s colleges has been calculated. The campuses play a huge part in the state’s tourism industry, a role that can be expanded to entice parents and families to stay a few extra days and visit sites off-campus, he says.

“The report is sort of a wake-up call,” Gerber says. “We are, within Georgia, one of the largest sectors of the economy. More importantly, we’re a sector that powers the other sectors to go forward.”

— Associated Press


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