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Economic impact report outlines BU’s $3 billion annual boon to region

BU’s economic impact on the commonwealth of Massachusetts is estimated at nearly $3 billion, which includes substantial tax payments to local government and hundreds of millions of dollars in wages, according to a report released recently by the University on its economic and social impact on the region.

But many of the University’s contributions to the economy are more difficult to measure. Students, staff, and visitors spend enormous amounts of money in Massachusetts, for instance. And BU generates business revenue through regional partnerships and technology transfer programs and through events at affiliated venues, such as Agganis Arena and Huntington Theatre Company productions.

“It’s really a phenomenal impact when you consider direct and indirect spending,” says Marvin Cook, vice president of planning, budgeting, and information. “And it goes up every year. Other universities contribute, too. Educational institutions are a driving force behind the local economy.”

In addition, the University report highlights more than 220 programs offered by BU and its departments that serve Massachusetts residents, such as scholarships for Boston high school students and home health care for more than 800 elderly, through a School of Medicine program that is the oldest of its kind in the nation. It also provides hundreds of volunteers, often in the form of faculty, staff, and students, to many local programs. BU also maintains landscaping, snow plowing, public safety, and trash collection operations not supported by cities or towns.

Some of BU’s contributions to the Massachusetts economy can indeed be measured, and according to Cook they aren’t to be taken lightly. “We’re very careful about putting together these numbers,” he says. Some examples from fiscal year 2004:

• $2.9 million in property taxes to the city of Boston (a total of $41.8 million since 1981)

• $3.3 million in payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to the city of Boston

• $1.6 million to the town of Brookline, in property taxes, not including permits and other town fees

• 24,374 people directly employed by BU, including full-time, part-time, and student employees.

• 14,427 jobs created outside BU, but supported through University spending

• $688.1 million in wages and benefits

• 4,158 students came from abroad to study at BU, which ranked eighth in the nation in number of international students

• $271 million spent by in Massachusetts BU students, not including tuition and fees paid directly to the University

• $34 million spent in Massachusetts by people visiting BU students

• $782 million spent by the University for the purchase of goods and services from more than 8,300 companies in Massachusetts, including 3,148 in the city of Boston.

• $252 million in federal research and financial aid money