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Boston's Economic Engines: 8 Research Universities

Boston's Economic Engines: 8 Research UniversitiesTufts among top research institutions that infuse $7.4 billion into area economy every year, according to a newly released report. Boston.

Boston [03.11.03] Located within a nine-mile radius of the state capitol, Boston's eight research universities serve as one of the area's most important economic powerhouses, according to a newly released economic impact report. Tufts and its fellow institutions, reported President Lawrence S. Bacow, infuse billions into the local economy and collectively employ more people than Greater Boston's financial services industry.

› Read the economic impact report: [ summary ] [ full report ]

"Greater Boston's research universities pump about $7.4 billion a year into the local economy, employing tens of thousands of area residents, supporting scores of businesses, and creating the ‘intellectual infrastructure' on which the region's knowledge-based economy is built, according to [a new] study," reported The Boston Globe. "The study ... is the most comprehensive look ever at the economic impact of higher education in Greater Boston."

More than 500,000 people comprise the top eight research universities, including more than 140,000 students and nearly 50,000 employees.

"What we do as research universities is to produce human capital through education, and intellectual capital through our research," Bacow said in a keynote address to the Boston Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. "While the Midwest may produce cars and steel, and the South may produce textiles, paper and citrus, we produce brains, new ideas and new technologies."

According to the study - conducted by the New York economic research firm Appleseed - Boston's eight research universities carried out more than $1.5 billion in research in 2000 alone.

The result, said Bacow, has been an influx of new ideas, new technologies and a broad range of highly successful Boston-based companies founded by alumni.

"Seven of the top 10 start-up companies that attracted the largest venture capital financing in the past year had connections to one or more of our universities," Bacow said in his remarks to industry and government leaders. "Forty-one new companies were started last year alone."

Despite the nation's economic downturn, Bacow said the Tufts and area's other research universities - including Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis, Harvard, MIT, Northeastern and U-Mass Boston -continue to provide an important source of jobs.

"We are steady employers, employing people in good times and bad," Bacow said. "Over the past two years, when regional employment has declined, we have actually added 2000 jobs in our eight universities. Indeed, we are not only the engine in the region's economy, we are also the flywheel that helps to keep it going through good times and bad."

The purchasing and spending power of the eight schools accounts for another 35,000 jobs.

"[The universities' presidents] pointed to the pace of construction at their campuses, which will spend an estimated $850 million a year for each of the next four years," reported The Boston Herald.

Student spending for food, entertainment and transportation exceeds $850 million annually and visitors to the campuses help drive the local economy as well.

"We estimate that the annual commencement exercises of our eight institutions draw more people to Boston than the Superbowl does to its host city," Bacow said. "And we do it year in and year out."

Local communities benefit from the research universities in their backyards as well.

"All eight universities are involved intensely in an array of programs to improve the quality of the K-12 education systems in their local communities," reported the economic impact study. "The universities and their staff and students also have provided affordable housing, improved the urban environment, strengthened local businesses and helped deliver health services in their communities."

Magnets for talent and billions of dollars in investment, the schools will play a key role in the region's economic recovery by continuing to expand knowledge and technology that creates new industries and jobs.

"We believe that our future economic well being as a region is tied to continuing investments in education, research and development," Bacow said. "We are asking government officials and the business community to work with us as partners to ensure that our research universities continue to be the driver of economic development in the future as they have in the past."

Collectively, the eight schools comprise an important intellectual and economic engine.

"Although we compete fiercely for students, faculty, staff and research support, we all share the same goal: to generate new knowledge in service to society, and to educate the next generation of students that will populate our workforce," Bacow said.

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