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Clemson University Economic Engine For State

University's impact on South Carolina includes nearly 25,000 jobs and nearly $2 billion in economic impact.

More than $1.83 billion in economic output, nearly 25,000 jobs and a net return to state taxpayers of $77.4 million annually. That’s the sum of Clemson University’s economic impact on the state of South Carolina, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The university also contributes $114.9 million in net local government revenue and $980.3 million in additional household disposable income. The figures are from 2010, the most recent year of the 10-year period analyzed.

The study, conducted by Clemson’s Strom Thurmond Institute for Government and Public Affairs, concludes the university is a significant job creator, a major driver of economic activity and a net funder of state and local government, contributing millions more in revenues than it receives in annual state appropriations.

The report was commissioned to coincide with this year’s 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which created the land-grant system of universities to expand access to higher education and support economic development — initially for the nation’s agricultural and mechanical industries. Clemson is a member of the land-grant system, and was founded in 1889 for the dual purpose of being “a high seminary of learning” and developing “the material resources of the state,” according to the will of founder Thomas Green Clemson.

“From the beginning, Clemson University’s mission has been to further the prosperity of South Carolina, and its campus has always been the entire state,” said President James F. Barker. “This report provides just one indication of how large an impact Clemson has had and will continue to have on South Carolina’s economic health.”

Since 2001, Clemson’s total impact on net state government revenues has exceeded annual state appropriations to the university by an average of $31.1 million. Over the 10-year period studied, Clemson’s impact on economic output averaged $1.65 billion per year.

The study does not include the economic impact of Clemson’s 60,000 alumni living, working and paying taxes in South Carolina, and does not attempt to quantify the social and quality-of-life impact of the university’s research, public service and cultural programs.

The report also excludes jobs created by private companies located at Clemson’s innovation campuses, such as BMW’s information technology research center at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville.

“This is a very conservative economic impact study, limited to those economic factors that can be directly attributed to activities at or by the university,” said Robert T. Carey, STI research associate.

University activities modeled in the study includes operations, outsourced services, capital expenditures, and student and visitor spending on and off campus, Carey said.

While the majority of economic impact is concentrated in the Upstate, every county in South Carolina receives some economic benefit from Clemson because of the university’s statewide Public Service Activities (PSA), which operated five agriculture and forestry research centers and an Extension officer in all 46 counties.

Other details from the report show:

  • PSA accounted for 1,756 jobs statewide, $133.4 million in economic output, $9.6 million in net local government revenue, and $12.99 million in net state revenue in 2010;
  • The Clemson Conference Center and Inn, which comprises the Madren Conference and Continuing Education Center, the Walker Golf Course and the Martin Inn, created 345 jobs, $15.96 million in economic output, $382,700 in net local government revenue, and $1.4 million in net state government revenue statewide in 2010;
  • Athletic events generate 1,200 jobs locally due to spending by attendees who travel from outside the Clemson area;
  • Athletic events generate $115.3 million in economic output statewide, $6.1 million in net local government revenue, and $8.2 million in net state revenue;
  • An average home football game accounts for 198 jobs, $10.3 million in total output, $733,000 in net state revenue and $542,000 in net local government revenue.

“While significant, these numbers only scratch the surface of Clemson’s value to the state of South Carolina and the Upstate region,” said Barker. “As a research university, our primary contributions are well-educated graduates, direct impact on key industry sectors such as agribusiness, automotive and manufacturing, and the innovations and new knowledge created through research.

“It also doesn’t factor in the significant contributions to quality of life from community service, outreach programs, continuing education opportunities, and the availability of amenities such as the Brooks Performing Arts Center, the S.C. Botanical Garden and the Clemson Experimental Forest.”

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