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NAU Boosts Local Economy –- Businesses Thrive

Northern Arizona University is a prominent player in the economic vitality of Flagstaff and the state of Arizona. That’s according to a report recently released by NAU’s Arizona Rural Policy Institute.

The report, The Economic Contributions of Northern Arizona University to the State of Arizona in 2010, claims that NAU has contributed nearly $1.5 billion to the state’s economy during the last fiscal year.

Rich Bowen, NAU vice president of development and sustainability said, “We bring visitors of various sorts, parents, and consultants here to do business, the range of people who come here is quite wide. They stay at hotels, go to restaurants, and we’re doing construction as a result of that growth. The construction pays taxes, and the companies pay construction workers who buy materials from our local vendors.”

Recently, Bowen was made president and CEO of the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona (ECoNA).  He will also continue his employment at NAU. At ECoNA, he will help coordinate a number of local economic development agencies.

The study was released the same week that Governor Jan Brewer announced state leaders would be cutting nearly $26 million from NAU’s budget. Bowen says the university educates thousands of students and creates enough economic activity that the university isn’t a cost to the state; instead, he says, NAU is a net generator.

Wayne Fox, assistant dean and director of Arizona Rural Policy Institute, noted that one in every eight jobs in Coconino County is attributed to NAU’s presence in Northern Arizona. Many Flagstaff businesses agree that the university drives their bottom line.

Nick Gabriel, manager of Black Bart’s Steakhouse, said the amount of jobs provided directly or indirectly by NAU is obviously important to the local economy. He employs only about 20 NAU students who sing and dance in productions at the restaurants; however, he says the performers are a big draw to the restaurant.

“They obviously bring in talent. And, unlike in many college communities, many of the students who work here [also] stay in Flagstaff even during the summer,” he added.

Maryjane Arnett, Crystal Magic store manager, says at least 30 percent of their customers are NAU students and their parents who visit from out of town. “On graduation weekends, 80 percent of our customers are students and parents. Without NAU, Flagstaff would fade away. It would be devastating. The university keeps our town young,” she said.

Erik Gerharter, owner of The Pita Pit in downtown Flagstaff, says he estimates 40 percent of his customers are affiliated with NAU. “They are extremely important to our business. College students on a budget speak volumes about where to go and what’s a good restaurant. I think there are so many residual effects that NAU has on our city. NAU drives our local economy.” FBN


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