by Matthew King
The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce held a joint news conference with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and University of Arkansas officials Wednesday morning to present a new report on the University of Arkansas’ economic impact on Arkansas.
Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, was the first guest for the meeting speaking on how the University of Arkansas impacts businesses and students with their current programs.
“…Anytime that myself, the governor or our team goes out and recruits a new company (or) a new business to the state of Arkansas, the first thing that they want to talk about is the workforce. Where are we going to find the talent and be able to fill the jobs that are coming into our state,” Preston said. “With the quality of the product that comes out of the University of Arkansas, we have an answer every time. It doesn’t matter what the job is or what the industry is.”
Joe Steinmetz, chancellor of the University of Arkansas, spoke next, giving his knowledge on the impact the University of Arkansas has had on the state. He says that the university has commissioned an economic impact study every five years since 2009.
“I’m thrilled to announce that our economic impact on the state of Arkansas exceeded $2.2 billion for 2018. That’s an increase of about $1 billion since the last report was done and 2014 and more than triple the $725 million that was reported in 2009,” Steinmetz said. “This is great news not just for the university, but I think for the state we serve as well. The university is routinely assessing and reassessing how we best conserve the people here in Arkansas. It is producing well educated and skilled graduates for the workforce. I think that’s our number one job that exceeds everything else we do. We’re also involved in conducting research and discover that proves our health and safety, reduced costs and spreads new innovations and ideas in many fields represented at this comprehensive university.”
Steinmetz continued, saying that each dollar appropriated by Arkansas to the university generated $13.56. He also said 77,183 University of Arkansas alumni residing the state have earned $2.7 billion in wages, paying more than $130 million in state income taxes, $65 million in state sales taxes and $12 million in county sales taxes in taxes. A press release also noted that over 82 percent of the 2018 graduating class was employed or accepted into graduate school with an average starting salary of $51,997.
The final speaker was Stacy Leeds, vice chancellor for economic development at the University of Arkansas. She explained that the study was conducted by Mervin Jebaraj, Director at the Center for Business and Economic Research at the Walton College of Business.
“Our work really does impact the four corners of our state. Research expenditures at the university are at an all-time high and we’re really doubling down on our efforts to make sure that we commercialize the inventions that come out of our faculty labs, whether that’s licensing our patents to existing companies or whether it’s supporting faculty and creating startup companies,” Leeds said. “Although our offices are still trying to build out the infrastructure to fully collect and measure our work, this report begins to touch on a very important nexus between student learning and our culture of public service.”
Leeds said that 1,800 students at the university have done 116,000 hours of work that benefited over 140 different community partners in Arkansas through more than 122 different courses with 6,500 students have given 150,000 volunteer hours outside of classes.
“If we value that work conservatively, this work is worth millions of dollars to the state each year,” Leeds said. “So whether it’s our students, faculty, or staff, we stand ready to continue partnering and also stand ready to continue to be a resource for the entire state. And we’re really proud of the university, both economic and social impact on the state of Arkansas.”