UC Merced's Economic Contribution to San Joaquin Valley Tops $450 Million

MERCED -- The University of California, Merced has contributed nearly $456 million in direct economic value to the San Joaquin Valley since the beginning of operations in Merced in July 2000, the university said today (Oct. 22).

Through August 2009, UC Merced has paid $269 million in local wages, awarded $90 million in construction contracts to local firms and purchased $97 million in goods and services from local suppliers.

Statewide, the university's economic contribution over the nine-year period is nearing the $1 billion mark. In addition to the $456 million spent in San Joaquin Valley, the total includes $109 million in goods and services purchased from firms outside the Valley, and $384 million in construction contracts awarded to firms outside the Valley.

"UC Merced has quickly become a vital catalyst for long-term economic growth and development throughout the San Joaquin Valley," said UC Merced Chancellor Steve Kang. "This has been one of our most important objectives since the campus was first envisioned 20 years ago. In a region with higher poverty and unemployment rates than any other major region in the state, we are extremely pleased to be creating good jobs, making major investments and increasing tax revenues at a rapid pace."

Kang said the university's economic contribution will continue to grow in the coming years as the campus expands to accommodate rising student enrollment. With 3,400 students enrolled this fall, up 26 percent from the fall of 2008, UC Merced is on pace to reach the 5,000 mark by 2013. Total student enrollment is expected to reach approximately 25,000 students at full build out within 30 years.

UC Merced currently has approximately 976 employees (excluding student employees) and a monthly payroll, including gross wages and benefits, of approximately $6.7 million. With the vast majority of its employees residing within the Valley and purchasing goods and services locally, the economic impact is multiplied several times over by the ripple effect.

"The timing of these contributions is very fortunate in light of the state's ongoing financial difficulties and the national housing crisis," said Mary Miller, vice chancellor for administration. "Recent statistics show rising indebtedness and home foreclosure rates for many residents of the Valley, which has been hit hard by these larger economic issues. We hope our growing contribution can help stem the tide and enable the region to rebound quickly as the economic picture begins to improve."

Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show that per capita income for the Valley in 2007 ranked among the lowest in the nation, with average income about one-third less than the national average. In Merced County, per capita income of $23,864 was more than 38% below the national average of $38,632.

At the same time, the Valley's population continues to grow rapidly, adding more than half a million people from the 2000 Census through July 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"The region's economy will have to grow and diversify significantly to absorb the added population and increase the region's overall standard of living," said Miller. "UC Merced will help by serving as a powerful engine of economic growth and spawning new industries and businesses that lift the region to greater prosperity. UC Merced graduates will play a major role in that transformation as their numbers increase and their contributions to Valley society and the economy multiply."

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