Everyone wins with university construction projects

March 2010

When we think of institutions of higher education, our thoughts usually turn to the students they graduate and the research their faculty conduct. There's another important benefit, though, that many overlook.

Morgan Burke

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Even in uncertain economic times, our public and private universities provide a solid financial anchor for our state. Their presence is the key reason that unemployment generally is low in their communities. Universities attract consumers - students who keep the economy moving. Universities also are in constant need of renovation, remodeling and more up-to-date facilities. And that means jobs.

One example is Purdue's project to expand Mackey Arena into a sports complex. It's a $99.5 million project that involves not a penny of taxpayer money. Instead, it is funded through Big Ten television contracts and private benefactors. So for no investment on the part of Indiana residents, it provides a steady stream of jobs for our state.

Based on a 40-hour workweek for one year, Mackey will have provided 486 construction or professional jobs, both directly and indirectly. That's almost 100 full-time equivalent jobs for every year of the five-year project.

Total economic impact? It’s an amazing $106 million for just this one project. Workers and professionals - the vast majority from Indiana - will have earned $23.6 million. Meanwhile, contractors and suppliers will generate $82 million in product sales.

This one project has put food on the table and hope in the air for Boilermaker fans looking forward to completion in November 2011. Purdue will have given our state the same kind of assist that Conseco Fieldhouse did - a 21st century basketball arena - but just as importantly, economic stability and jobs.

The renovation not only serves the economy, it also helps all of the university's nearly 500 student-athletes. The greatest challenge for student-athletes is time management. Having athletic, academic and training facilities under one roof will give athletes a tool to better juggle their academic and athletic schedules. A three-level structure is planned north of Mackey and currently is being referred to as the Student-Athlete Development Center. Its highlights include:

* A sports medicine facility approximately three and a half to four times larger than the current area in Mackey.

* A strength and weight training facility approximately four times larger than the existing Intercollegiate Athletic Facility weight room.

* An oversized basketball practice facility with a full-size court and three breakout areas.

The Mackey Arena Complex will significantly enhance the overall fan experience at Purdue games as well. The concourse width will be approximately doubled and concessions will increase four times.

As I said, this is just one project. In the past 10 years, Purdue has built more than 33 major buildings, most without taxpayer money. Part of one of them is named after two Boilermakers you may remember. He and his wife were the lead donors for the Drew and Brittany Brees Student-Athlete Academic Center.

Donors help build our facilities, and that builds our economy. This gives everyone reason to cheer.