One of the first things incoming freshmen do after moving in to Drew University is take a tour of Madison's downtown with the help of members of the business community.
The , this year scheduled for Aug. 23, is a chance for students to get acquainted with merchants in the borough, where many of the students will be living, studying and shopping for the next four years.
"They're a very important part of our town economically and outstanding members of the community," said John Morris, first vice president of the Madison Chamber of Commerce.
A recent report put together by Drew University puts numbers to just how big the university's impact on the local economy is, estimating it at $5 million a year.
For example, if every student living on campus spends $15 a week with Madison merchants, that's $675,000 going to Madison businesses.
Among the findings for 2011:
- Drew paid $381,498 in property taxes.
- Drew paid Madison over $2.9 million for utilities and other services.
- A total of $161,285 was paid to the borough in 2011 for things like permits, fees, registrations and police overtime.
- Drew spent $698,551 directly purchasing goods and services from Madison based businesses.
- There are 102 Madison residents employed by Drew as faculty, staff or administrators. At an estimated average salary of $67,957, they're paid a combined $6,931,614 a year, which flows into the local economy. Twenty of the employees live in private homes estimated to have paid about $176,000 in property taxes.
- Of the approximately 2,200 students attending Drew, 1,407 live on campus—almost 9 percent of the total population of Madison. "If each student spends conservatively $15 per week with Madison merchants (pizza, bagels, restaurants, merchants, etc.) it would add up to $675,000 per year in money infused into the local economy during the academic year. In addition, we estimate that faculty and staff—another 530 persons—spend a very conservative average of $25 per week for a total of $580,400 per year."
- Don't forget moms and dads. "We estimate that visiting parents and friends spend another $160,000. That is based on an assumption that roughly half of our undergraduate populations parents visit at least once during an academic semester and they will eat at least one meal in Madison."
The report, which is attached to this post as a PDF, also says Drew employees have volunteered numerous hours with Madison committees and service organizations, including the Planning Board, Rotary, Downtown Development Commission, Parks Advisory Committee, and the Shade Tree Management Board. Each May Day, more than 20 Drew students and staff spend the day sprucing up Madison.
"In addition, the faculty has offered numerous hours of expertise to these and other organizations," the report says. "For example, Dr. Sara Webb volunteered her time to write the vegetation chapter of Madison’s Environmental Resources Inventory as well as an evaluation and report of the natural resources acquired with the Madison Recreation Complex property."
Drew also has been a "significant" financial sponsor of borough events and initiatives, such as Taste of Madison, the Madison Farmers Market, the Green Fair and the Madison Avenue Direct shuttle connecting local colleges and Madison's downtown. The university contributes $10,000 a year to the Madison First Aid Squad to recognize and support the "vital volunteer organization," the report says.
Drew said its relationship with Madison is mutually beneficial.
"For its part, Drew recognizes that the suburban charm of Madison, its prosperous downtown and business district, excellent schools and proximately to mass transit and New York City all contribute to making Drew a desirable place to work and study," the report says. "In return, Drew significantly enhances the quality of life for residents of the borough. Each year, many take advantage of cultural enrichment and educational opportunities offered by the university—they hear first hand from world leaders and opinion shapers through the Forum Lecture Series, enjoy concerts by world renowned musicians in the school’s state of the art concert hall, attend lectures by university faculty on campus or at the Madison Library, enroll in continued education courses, and sign their sons and daughters up in one of the many summer sports camps on campus offered by Drew’s coaches and athletic staff."
Downtown Development Commission Chair Eric Range said Drew is an "important economic driver for Madison."
"Madison is very lucky to have large institutions like Drew University," Range said. "Beyond the fees and taxes paid by Drew, for years the Downtown Development Commission has recognized the economic importance of engaging thousands of consumers just outside our downtown. Students and employees who live in Madison are nearly 10% of the population making the University an important economic driver for Madison."
Michael Kopas, executive director of Facilities and Special Projects for Drew, said the nearly $700,000 spent by the university on goods and services from Madison business includes the majority of the university's tree care, hardware, plumbing, carpentry and office supplies.
"Drew has had great relationships with a number of local vendors over the years and is always looking to do more," Kopas said. "When you deal with local businesses, you get that personal connection and sense of community that you may not get elsewhere."