The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

May 8, 2013

Study: GCC an economic plus

By HOWARD BALABAN howard.balaban@journal-register.com
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — A recent report stated Genesee Community College’s economic impact on the region it serves is $169.1 million. GCC has two campus centers in Orleans County; one in Albion and one in Medina.

According to an update of the original report, those two centers have a $25.6 million impact on the county.

Nearly 1,300 students attended classes at GCC in the 2011-2012 school year, according to information provided by the college. Many county high schoolers also took advantage of GCC’s “Early Start” programs, aimed at giving them a chance to earn college credit before enrolling at a larger, private university. Roughly 400 students took advantage of the program, saving Orleans County families as much as $1.6 million in future college costs, according to GCC.

The study, conducted by Idaho-based Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc.’s Dr. Kjell A Christopherson, was originally presented in mid-April in Batavia. His research examined the “effect of both short-term college-related spending and long-term economic contributions, including tax payments of current and former students,” according to the information provided. The model he used has been endorsed by independent economists.

Jim Simon, Associate Dean of GCC’s Albion and Medina Campus Centers, said some of the impact is obvious while other areas in which GCC’s presence is felt are tougher to estimate.

“Generally, by having campuses in Medina and Albion, we provide job positions and opportunities,” he said, noting the college staffs more than just professors. 

“Also, the students who take classes often live nearby,” he said. “Someone may be driving in from Lockport to take a class, and then stay to eat lunch or dinner at a restaurant in Albion or Medina.”

During any given semester the Albion and Medina Campus Centers offer about 100 courses and employ between 70 and 80 faculty and staff, Simon said. Students come from Orleans, Niagara, Monroe, and Genesee Counties, and those from the latter three help the Orleans County economy whenever they visit and fill their cars with gas, eat a meal, or stop at a store for groceries or a gift.

Another way the college impacts the county is by allowing students the chance to study closer to home, said Michelle Bokman, Director of Operations at the Albion and Medina Campus Centers. She said that along with recent high school graduates, GCC offers opportunities to “non-traditional” students.

“We’re a lifeline for people who want to take a class locally,” she said, referring to “adult learners.” 

She said the college is offers many classes to help those students who are trying to retrain themselves for a new job while still juggling family life and trying to find day care.

“Our goal is to prepare our students for future employment and that will definitely lead to a positive impact on our local economy,” she said.

Bokman said the services offered at the Albion and Medina Campus Centers differ. The Albion center leans a bit more toward arts and creativity, while the Medina center features several different labs and is more focused on science.

As a commuter college, Bokman said there is plenty of money spent within the county. She said keeping students close to home for the first year or two of their college careers plays a “huge” role in the county because it could lead to them coming home after graduating from a larger school, and once again positively contributing to the community.

The college also hosts events on occasion, and most recently in Medina the Civil War Encampment drew quite a number of people to the area.

Simon said the estimates varied on how many actually attended the three-day event, but he conservatively guessed close to 2,500 people.

“Many were local, but I know some were from longer distance, and you can’t put a dollar sign on what that can do for a community,” he said. “But it did generate revenue.”

Simon said GCC is required to do some things with SUNY-approved (State University of New York) vendors, but he said his preference was for the college to “go local” as often as possible.

“We feed the students during finals week with food from local restaurants, we use local craftsmen for maintenance work, and we use a local night cleaning service,” he said, listing a few areas in which the college helps the community.

“We feel like we’re a local operation,” he said.

According to information provided by the college, roughly 1,700 GCC alumni live in the county. In a statement, GCC President Dr. James Sunser said, “We’ve been putting a lot of effort into making sure the programs we’re delivering support the local region.” 

That support comes by helping local businesses and providing them with new workers, Sunser said.

“We continue to look to the future to provide local employers with employees they need who are well-trained, well-educated, and ready to contribute,” he said.