GVSU continues to pump up the economy


Grand Valley State University seems to be getting greener each year, and in two ways.

First, GVSU, its staff and its students invested more “green” into the region’s economy this past fiscal year — nearly $52 million more than the previous year. Second, the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, named GVSU one of the greenest universities in the nation this month (see related story).

GVSU reported the school had an economic impact of $732.3 million during FY 2010-11, up from the $680.4 million it spread throughout the tri-county region of Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties in the previous fiscal year. The report also said there are more than 10,800 permanent off-campus jobs due to the university’s presence in the area.

GVSU faculty and staff, which number 3,262 in both full- and-part-time positions, earned salaries that were worth $200 million last year, much of which was spent with area businesses. Approximately $6.8 million of those earnings went for tax payments to the state and local municipalities.

GVSU students, a population of 24,660, spent $182 million in the region last year.

The university spent nearly $70 million on building projects in 2011, with nearly $59 million being spent in Ottawa County. Construction spending in Kent County was $10.1 million last year, and $227,000 in Muskegon County.

GVSU announced this year that it plans to expand its downtown presence a bit. It acquired the property at 346 W. Fulton St., which was home to an Admiral Gas Station. The site is directly across Fulton Street from the Eberhard Center and just east of the Pew Campus. By picking up this site, the university is consolidating its properties into one large parcel that runs west from the Grand River to Winter Avenue and south from Fulton Street to Butterworth Avenue.

“This is a positive move for the university, but also for the city. It’s part of Grand Valley’s initiative to improve the west side of the city, and the best use of the property is for educational purposes,” said Thomas Butcher, GVSU counsel, in a statement.

As for that other green, the Sierra Club ranked GVSU No. 16 out of the 96 schools on its list. The university was the highest rated and greenest among state schools and finished ahead of some bigger names such as Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley.

The honor marked the first time the Sierra Club had recognized Grand Valley on the list, which ranks schools that are making a strong commitment to improving the environment, are helping solve climate problems and are making significant efforts to operate sustainably.

The university was able to put a number to its sustainability effort last week; it came to $900 million for the previous fiscal year. That figure represents the dollars and resources GVSU saved throughout the region from 2010-2011.

The school’s first-ever report, called the Sustainable Community Development Initiative, offers 11 sections that outline the practices students, faculty and staff members followed to increase the impact of sustainable activity on campus and in the communities GVSU serves.

“We’re a game-changer. This report demonstrates the things we’ve done to reduce our environmental footprint. We are excited to share it and hope it gets the campus community even more excited about contributing at Grand Valley,” said GVSU President Thomas Haas in a statement.

In addition, Forbes magazine listed GVSU as one of America’s Best Colleges for 2012. Forbes comprises its list by evaluating a school’s post-graduate success, student satisfaction, debt, competitive awards and its four-year graduation rate.

Grand Valley was one of nine public universities in the state to make the list, which also included the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and Michigan State University. Kalamazoo College, Hillsdale College, Hope College and Calvin College also were named, along with other Michigan schools.

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