Michigan Research Corridor Generates Jobs and $15.5B in Economic Impact, Study Finds

Michigan Research Corridor Generates Jobs and $15.5B in Economic Impact, Study Finds
January 23, 2013/Detroit Free Press  

By David Jesse

Michigan's University Research Corridor generated more than $15.5 billion in economic impact across the state in 2011 and was responsible for more than 74,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to a report to be issued today.

The report said the growth in research spending in Michigan is outpacing such fabled university clusters such as North Carolina's Triangle Park, California's Innovation Hubs and Boston's Route 128 Corridor.

The report, compiled by the Anderson Economic Group of East Lansing, measured research and economic impact through the URC, which is composed of Michigan State University, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan. The study was paid for by the URC.

The economic impact in Michigan is up 20% since 2007, the report said. The $15.5 billion in economic development is equal to 17 times the total amount of state funding given to the three universities each year.

"That's a darn good (return on investment)," said WSU President Allan Gilmour. "If higher education were a business, the state would want us here and if we weren't here, would be trying to get us to come here."

"These three universities are very big assets to this state and beyond," Gilmour said.

The bulk of the economic impact came in southeastern Michigan, followed by mid-Michigan, the home of MSU. The study also found economic impact across the state, including $63.5 million in the Upper Peninsula.

The report shows activity tied to the URC boosted state tax revenue by $375 million in 2011, an increase of $24 million since the benchmarking studies began in 2007.

"Michigan's URC is making a real difference in creating talent for Michigan companies, and doing more research and development every year," said URC Executive Director Jeff Mason.

Nearly 150 start-up companies have come out of the URC since 2002.

The three universities in the URC conferred 31,683 graduate and undergraduate degrees in 2011, more than any of the other university innovation clusters the group benchmarks against, the URC said.

"Our graduates are key to strengthening and expanding Michigan's economy," U-M President Mary Sue Coleman said in a news release.

MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon agreed.

"Michigan's economic success is vital to our students' ability to get good jobs when they graduate," she said in a news release. "We're deeply committed to continuing our efforts to help Michigan's businesses innovate and grow by providing the research and talent they need."

The URC universities spent more than $2 billion on research and development in 2011, an increase of 43% since 2007. It's the first year spending on research has topped the $2-billion mark. During the same period, research spending in North Carolina has grown 26%, the study said.

In 2011, California spent $2.6 billion, North Carolina spent $2.2 billion and Massachusetts spent $1.5 billion, according to the report.

In 2010, Michigan spent $1.8 billion, California spent $2.6 billion, North Carolina spent $2.1 billion and Massachusetts spent $1.5 billion.

Half of the URC research spending comes from grants from the federal government. The universities themselves funded 38% of the spending. Life sciences has gotten the bulk of the funding, with more than $1.18 billion.

That's a category important to WSU, which broke ground last fall on a Multidisciplinary Biomedical Research Building on Woodward Avenue in Detroit's Midtown.

A $93-million project, the building will feature nearly 200,000 square feet of space for about 500 researchers and staff and 68 principal investigators. It will include laboratories, faculty offices, common areas and clinical space. It's the largest building project in WSU's history.

But the money on research is being spent on more than just high-tech areas, Gilmour said. He noted he had been meeting with demographers.

"I can assure you, business values that," he said.

The report found the URC spent $105 million on non-science and non-engineering research in 2011.

All of the research helps attract the brightest and best professors to a university, which helps attract the brightest and best students, Gilmour said. That, in turn, helps boost the state as a whole.

But Gilmour said it is becoming harder to keep the growth going.

"It certainly would help if the state Legislature and administration would be more inclined to give support to universities, not just these three, but all the universities across the state," he said.

More Details: Study highlights
A new study of Michigan’s University Research Corridor shows the initiative is having a major economic impact on the state. Here are some highlights:

• The URC created $15.5 billion in economic impact last year, up 20% since 2007.

• 74,000 jobs in Michigan are tied to the initiative.

• The URC generated $375?million in state tax revenue.

• Spending on research and development is growing faster in Michigan than the North Carolina Triangle Park, California’s Innovations Labs and Boston’s Route 128 Corridor