Powering the state's economy

Anyway you slice it, the University of Oregon is an economic powerhouse, says UO economist Tim Duy.

Garnering federal research dollars and fostering research innovations. Creating and supporting thousands of jobs, directly and indirectly. Spending hundreds of millions of dollars on construction projects. Turning out graduates who will earn far more than counterparts without college degrees.

Duy, an adjunct assistant professor of economics, is the author of a new report, “The Economic Impact of the University of Oregon,” which found the university’s total economic impact for the 2009-10 fiscal year was $1.97 billion.

“There’s no doubt in my mind (the UO) is a significant driver of economic activity in this state,” Duy said. “Two billion dollars of total (economic) activity is certainly nothing to sneeze at.”

Duy’s report is the first comprehensive study of the UO’s economic reach since a 2002 study by UO economics professor Larry Singell, which found the UO’s total economic impact to be $703 million.

Duy found that the UO produces $33.64 in economic activity for every $1 it receives in state appropriations, and accounts for $1 for every $84 in Oregon’s economy.

Much of that economic activity is tied to employment:  The university had 5,799 employees during 2009-10, and indirectly supported 13,247 jobs in Oregon, the study said. No firm on Oregon Business Magazine’s list of the top 150 private companies employed more Oregonians than the UO.

The university also draws in $367.3 million from out-of-state sources, notably $125 milllion in research grants and $140.5 million in out-of-state tuition.

“One of the significant reasons the university does have a large economic impact is we draw in so many out of state dollars,” Duy said.

A mug shot of Tim Duy, UO economistThe UO also has been on building boom in recent years; the university spent $177 million on construction projects in FY 2009-10, contributing an estimated $325 million to the state’s economy.

“In a period of general economic distress, we’ve managed to contribute by building our student body and by building physically with new construction,” he said. “That construction could not have come at a better time for this community given the economic conditions we’ve experienced for the last few years.”

But the university’s greatest long-term economic impact may be the students who leave campus each spring with undergraduate and graduate degrees.

He cites U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures that indicate 25-year-old high school graduates who were employed full-time in 2009 had median weekly earnings of $626, while 25-year-olds with bachelor’s degrees had median earnings of $1,025.

“The primary function of a university is to produce human capital,” Duy said. “Higher levels of human capital raise the productivity of the workforce, an effect that is evidenced by the premium paid to college graduates.”

When talk to turns to economic trends in Oregon, Duy is the man to see.

He directs the Oregon Economic Forum, and is the author of the UO Index of Economic Indicators, a monthly report on the state of the state’s economy, and other economic reports. Duy is quoted frequently in the news media, both local and national. He also blogs about economics policies.

“That’s what university faculty do,” he said. “We’re supposed to be able to take complicated ideas and teach those ideas in ways that are appropriate for what ever group we’re talking to.”

Duy earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Puget Sound, and a master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. He worked as an economist for the U.S. Treasury Department in the International Affairs Division, and later with the G7 Group, a political and economic consultancy for clients in the financial industry.