By Jeff Peterson,
    Research associate, Center for Business Outreach 

My office produces an economic contribution study for NAU every few years. Without intending to, we released this contribution study the same week that the state government announced its $100 million reduction in university funding.

The most recent study focused on the 2014 fiscal year. Most universities produce similar reports, and the results tend to boast of the institution’s regional economic significance.

This study definitely indicates the importance of NAU to the county, where we tie one in every five county jobs to the existence of NAU, and the state, with a $1.845 billion annual economic activity attributable to NAU. However, in light of cuts in state appropriations, we also stress that funds for higher education do not simply support education and then vanish. In NAU’s case, the university contributes an irreplaceable portion of the economy.

And the reach of the benefit isn’t restricted to university employees or to northern Arizona. Half a billion dollars of the economic activity occurs outside of Coconino County. Thousands of non-NAU jobs supported by the university and strengthens many locally owned small businesses. These represent a cross section of the economy – restaurants, health care, retail stores, banks, utilities, communications and personal services.

We don’t analyze university funding as a traditional state investment – cost vs. benefit. If we did, the dwindling state funds would produce a higher state return with each cut. Rather, this is a demonstration of the university as a solid and resilient player in the state, county and city economies.

I understand that the prevailing sentiment at the capital won’t be changed by our findings, but I hope we’ve demonstrated that NAU – and in the same way, other institutions and infrastructure dependent on the state – is an essential part of how Arizona works.