NMU leaves annual $300M impact on economy


Von Lanier

In 1899, Northern Michigan University opened with an enrollment of 32 students who were taught by six faculty members in rented rooms at Marquette City Hall. More than 100 years later, the university now has nearly 8,000 students enrolled, each of whom contribute directly or indirectly to the economic footprint of NMU on Marquette.

NMU President Fritz Erickson highlighted NMU’s annual economic impact on Marquette at the Fall University Forum in early November, which totals $300 million in 2017. Since the beginning, NMU has maintained a close and necessary relationship with Marquette and vice versa. A need for student housing created a sizeable market for real estate in the city. Payroll spending by NMU employees generates significant amounts of revenue for local businesses and student spending itself also generates a lot revenue.

Contrast Coffee, located on Third Street, is one business that benefits from the economic boon NMU can provide through its student body and number of employees. At its Marquette location, the diversity of everyday customers is a reflection of the demand for small businesses around Marquette and the idea of buying local. Senior retirees, NMU professors and students alike can be found enjoying a crêpe or a cappuchino at this new attraction that opened in late October.

Mandy Anglen, a co-manager of Contrast Coffee, said although the business is new to Third Street the atmosphere is different all the time because of the diversity of people that come in on daily basis. “I would say we benefit a lot by the economy here in Marquette. A lot of faithful college students come in a lot and some of our employees are actually NMU students,” Anglen said.

“So we feel supported by them probably just as much as they feel like we contribute something to them,” Anglen added. “But we’re a little bit fresh and still trying to figure out what exactly our role is going to look like in the community.”

Also located on Third Street is Downwind Sports, which serves as a recreational outlet for both NMU students and employees. Many of the shop’s customers are bike enthusiasts who opt for a fat tire bike as a means to commute to campus in the winter. The shop itself is owned by three NMU alum who left the university as students but returned as benefactors of the financial relationship between NMU and Marquette.

Bill Thompson, co-owner of Downwind Sports said Lake Superior being virtually on NMU’s campus helps with business because it’s easy for people to engage in world class activities that they may not be able to anywhere else. The shop serves as a means for people to get what they need for outdoor activities just five minutes away from campus.

“[NMU] brings a lot to this town whether it’s students coming in or the faculty and staff,” Thompson said. “It’s a very vibrant and a healthy community and so we enjoy being a part of that and having that partnership with the university.”

The economic footprint is defined as the employment, earnings and spending in a region that are related to all economic activity by the university. The economic footprint is often mistaken for the net economic impact of a university, which focuses more on the employment earnings and spending that is caused by the university.

The direct effect of NMU’s economic footprint includes spending done by the university, employment at the university, and all revenue attributed to university operations around the region. The indirect effect of NMU’s economic footprint is when dollars recirculate around the Marquette economy. When university employees use their wages to buy groceries from the local supermarket, the economy benefits because vendors are able to use that spending to provide even greater goods and services to the city.

The economic footprint of NMU provides a greater understanding of the university’s influence on the Marquette area rather than the net economic impact because it is not possible to determine if the annual $300 million generated by NMU would be the same in the absence of the institution. The economic footprint also helps to show the scope of economic activity caused by NMU and it’s students, in addition to the indirect effects that spending has on local vendors and households. A large portion of spendings and earnings by employees and students at NMU circulate in the city of Marquette, which account for a part of the university’s $300 million annual impact. The visiting parents of NMU students also help generate revenue for local restaurants and hotels.