The card… well actually… The University that pays you back

You might recall a popular television and radio commercial campaign for a credit card that featured the slogan, “The Card that Pays You Back.”

Thinking about the contributions made to the local economy by our nearest university, there is not only a payback but a relevancy in another credit card provider’s tag line – “What’s in your wallet?”

I’m speaking of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater that a recent study showed was contributing more than $400 million to wallets in the local economy of Walworth, Rock and Jefferson counties.

The impact comes in part from the university itself, with its direct spending on payroll, capital investments and supplies.

Many college towns benefit economically from their hometown institution of higher learning, and Whitewater is no exception, but with the effect spreading throughout the entire region.

Beyond the expenditures of the university itself is the large amount of regional spending that comes from faculty, students, staff and visitors.

All told, the spending from both the university and the people associated with it added up to $407,177,739 in economic activity.

Last year’s study also factored in the considerable economic impact in employment. The study concluded the university supports more than 4,300 jobs.

Big Purple also adds a bit of green throughout the state of Wisconsin, when you factor in all that the university generates in taxes. The study concludes that UW-Whitewater generates an estimated $17,914,768 in annual tax revenue for the state, including sales tax, property tax and income tax.

The author of the study, Russ Kashian, professor of economics at the university, said the report only scratches the surface of UW-Whitewater’s impact.

“The numbers don’t account for the increase in income tax revenue we see in people with higher levels of education and thus a higher income,” he said. “And then there is the synergy of cultural, social and intellectual experiences and community service activities, which undoubtedly creates an even greater level of positive effect on the local economy.”

That alludes in part to the last big number in UW-W’s regional impact: the revenue generated by visitor spending. More than $14.6 million is generated each year by a combination of visitors attending Warhawk athletic events, families taking part in university-run youth camps, and audiences enjoying the many performances and events throughout the year at the Young Auditorium.

Add the many jobs filled by Whitewater graduates in Walworth County that run the gamut from marketing and hospitality to business and human resources and you get a fuller economic picture of all the benefits the university brings to our local table.