SOUTH BEND -- What’s the University of Notre Dame worth to St. Joseph County?
More than $1.1 billion a year, according to a report the university released Wednesday.
Notre Dame commissions a comprehensive economic study about every five years, so officials can understand and monitor the university’s local impact.
“The point is for us to understand what we’re doing and if we’re doing enough,” said John Affleck-Graves, the university’s executive vice president. “We’re very conscious of our role in the community and in the region.”
The report shows that Notre Dame’s economic role here is growing.
Its cumulative impact, directly and indirectly, adds up to $1.167 billion annually. That’s a 33 percent jump from the $873 million impact calculated as part of the university’s prior economic study in 2007.
Affleck-Graves attributed the increase to new construction on campus as well as a greater focus on research.
The university spent a total of $510 million on construction and renovations between the 2007 and 2012 fiscal years. Those investments have dramatically changed the southern part of campus and, in several cases, enabled more research that could lead to spin-off businesses.
Recent projects include Compton Family Ice Arena, completed in the fall of 2011; the Stayer Center for Executive Education, which opened this past spring; and the renovated Joyce Center, a sports arena that underwent $26 million in improvements in 2010.
Other notable new buildings include Innovation Park at Notre Dame, a $13 million business incubator that opened in the fall of 2009, and Stinson-Remick Hall, a $69 million engineering research center completed in September 2010. The university nearly doubled its research funding from $82.3 million in 2007 to $157.7 million in 2012.
The construction boom has had “a tremendous impact on this community,” said Don Fozo, executive director of the Michiana Area Construction Industry Advancement Fund.
“With the economy that we’ve been suffering through in this area, a lot of our construction would be nonexistent without them,” Fozo said. “It’s not just on campus. Off campus they’ve had that impact, too.”
Affleck-Graves said the university plans to continue building at the same pace, with another $500 million in construction scheduled during the next five years.
Another angle to Notre Dame’s economic impact is its ability to draw visitors from outside the Michiana region. Almost 900,000 people from outside the area visited campus during the 2011-2012 academic year, and those people spent almost $160 million while visiting.
Obviously, football games are big — each home game generates $18 million in economic activity in the county — but the university attracts people for other reasons, too.
Compton Family Ice Arena, for example, has put South Bend on the map for youth hockey tournaments.
“Just last year, we had eight different youth hockey tournaments scheduled throughout the winter season, and we already have 11 scheduled for the upcoming season,” said Rob DeCleene, executive director of Visit South Bend Mishawaka. “That’s business coming in December and January and February when the hotels really need the business.”
The Stayer Center for Executive Education is another destination for out-of-towners.
“Almost on a weekly basis, Notre Dame is bringing in groups of executives for seminars and different programs throughout the year,” DeCleene said.
The university’s decision three years ago to hold commencement in Notre Dame Stadium instead of Purcell Pavilion, which is inside the Joyce Center, is another factor that’s been good for the area’s tourism economy.
“When it was in Purcell, they had to limit the number of tickets that students got, and it limited the attendance,” DeCleene said. “Now (commencement weekend) has become what we refer to as a citywide sellout for the hotels and then the restaurants and everything else.”
Notre Dame, with 5,590 workers in the fall of 2011, is also the largest employer in St. Joseph County. Employment at the university grew by 700 positions between fall 2006 and fall 2011.
Affleck-Graves said the report looks at Notre Dame’s economic impact, but university officials recognize the school benefits from the community as well.
“It’s a two-way street: We hope the local economy benefits from us,” he said. “We recognize the benefit we get from the local economy, and that’s in hundreds of ways.”
Appleseed, an economic consulting firm based in New York, conducted the study for Notre Dame. The firm conducted past studies for the university as well.
More information about the report is at www.impact.nd.edu.