SUNY: Culturally... Economically, A Powerful Engine

Rolling acres of vineyards and fruit orchards, dairy stables and vegetable farms, corporate firms and family owned businesses... these are all part of the fabric of our geographical region. And then, too, there are professional offices and community centers, public utilities and public service agencies, religious organizations and health care centers, and a host of other thriving human inspired entrepreneurships. All of these add richly to the economic and social community dynamic. And also, so essentially vital in each of our communities are our educational institutions, both public and private, at all levels of the educational spectrum. There is no question, that our schools and institutions of higher learning play a most significant role in the health and vitality of every community. And the State University of New York is one such institution which plays a significant role in the total vibrancy of the State and of this region.

The State University of New York (SUNY) has grown to include sixty-four academic institutions that include everything from world-renowned community colleges to nationally top rated gradate schools and in a variety of fields. The System's highly regarded doctoral degree granting universities and many of our other institutions, such as the State University at Fredonia, can boast of top research programs which attract experts from around the world. SUNY has expanded to include more than 414,000 students enrolled in 6,688 programs. It is the largest public university in the Unites States and one of the largest in the entire world. More students are enrolled in the SUNY System today than ever before. The SAT scores of our entering freshman class having increased dramatically. Point in fact, the SAT scores of the current freshman class at SUNY Fredonia is at the HIGHEST LEVEL EVER. Clearly, there is no doubt but that the economic, cultural and social impact of the University is a highly significant and relevant component to the health, vitality and vibrancy of our State and in each of the respective localized host regions.

The SUNY schools and its four academic medical center/hospitals are often among the largest employers in their host communities, employing over 100,000 faculty, researchers and staff statewide. For the 414,000 students who are working toward an associate, baccalaureate, master or doctorial degrees, their education can promise individually over $1 million in earnings over the course of their career. And as these individuals live, earn and invest in our communities, they add significantly to the economic dynamic of that area.

The University, in its vast variety of campuses across the State, serves as one source of stability economically. Further, it serves as an engine whose research operations serve as an important stimulus, creating new companies, new jobs, and attracting millions of research dollars to the region. The University plays a major role as an important economic stimulant for the State and for the various regions; and is likely to increase as the University expands and broadens its research efforts in a host of new business, professional, cultural and scientific disciplines. The emerging development of a high tech incubator imitative at SUNY Fredonia is a strategic prime example for economic revitalization and entrepreneurship development. As we see it, the University and the State have a relationship that is like a marriage. The University's potential for success is fundamentally intertwined with the success and prosperity of the State, as is the State with the University.

Cleary, the University affects the economic well being of its neighbors, from drawing new consumers to the region in the form of students and visitors, to being the largest private employer in many of the host area locations, to being a major consumer of goods and services. The University generates thousands of jobs by directly employing workers and indirectly through construction, purchasing, and through the economic multiplier effect. Economically, additional jobs are generated through student and visitor spending and through the activities of companies based on University technologies or those that were started by University faculty or graduates. In so many ways, the University serves as the areas' core economic engine. In other words, often the University becomes the magnet which draws in other companies, explores emerging possibilities, and serves as an attraction for future initiatives. And thus, it has a magnetic pull of attraction for folks individually or collectively and is often central to playing a vital role in anchoring and enhancing the host area's local economy and quality of life. In the near future, we will explore more specifically the profile and impact of SUNY Fredonia.

In a society in which efficient production and competent management are of paramount importance, being economically competitive is synonymous with being educationally current. R. Rosan wrote in 2002 "few institutions have more to offer in propelling economic development on both a national and local basis than our nation's colleges and universities. They are the creators and disseminators of knowledge. As leading institutions in their communities, they are powerful economic drivers, technology centers, employers, developers and investors." Cleary, the economy of the future will rely on intellect and knowledge. Every business needs ideas, innovations, and creativity. These are the things associated with a good university. Tapan Monroe, an economist for California said, "Like steel and auto manufacturing during the 1900's, it is the universities which fuel the regional economic engines of the current century." And the State University of New York is just such an engine of energy and ingenuity. And that is how we see it FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.

NOTE: Our next column will focus primarily on the State University at Fredonia which is ranked 9th in the North among public universities.