Using Economic Impact Studies to Engage Students in Service Learning
Associate Professor of Management
St. John's University/College of St. Benedict
266 Simons Hall
Collegeville, MN 56321
Associate Professor of Management
St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict
216 Simons Hall
Collegeville, MN 56321
This study provides an overview of incorporating economic impact analysis into management courses as part of a service-learning requirement. Currently, students are utilizing Input-Output Models to do economic impact studies for local non-profit organizations as part of a service operations management course. The plan is to have students in the future utilize these models as part of an internship experience, an independent learning project, or a service-learning project (associated with a specific course like service operations management or business finance). For example, students will work with nonprofits, such as a local theater, symphony, and historical museum. The focus of this paper is on using Input-Output Models in the management curriculum to enhance student’s analytical skills as well as to provide experiential learning. In particular, it will show how utilizing IMPLAN will facilitate the learning of economic and management concepts.
Most regional economics courses include a module on input-output models. A subset of these courses even includes hands-on experience with input-output modeling (Maki, Loveridge, and Lichty, 1994). However, it is rare for a course designed for non-economists to include a discussion of input-output models and even rarer for this type of course to provide students with hands-on experience doing input-output modeling (Partridge, Summer 2001).
We believe that by exposing management students to input-output models and the IMPLAN software, we will provide them with valuable business/economics skills, which will afford them a competitive advantage vis-à-vis other students. By doing an economic impact study, students will also be able to see the benefits of economic development and to determine the economic impact of an industry on the regional economy (including the indirect and induced effects). Students will grow to understand the complexity of local and state policymaking, including their intricate feedback throughout the economy.
The next section of this paper will provide an overview of economic input-output models in general and IMPLAN specifically. Several not-for-profit and for-profit applications are provided. The later sections will discuss incorporating economic impact studies into a management course with a service-learning component. Two case studies of student projects are described. Finally, the paper concludes with a description of the overall benefits of using input-output analysis as part of a broad-based management curriculum at a liberal arts institution.
Overview of Economic Input-Output Models and IMPLAN:
IMPLAN (Impact analysis for PLANning) was developed in the late 1970s by the U.S. Forest Service. It was used to satisfy the economic impact reporting requirements of the Forest Service. The IMPLAN system was turned over to the University of Minnesota and privatized in 1993. It is now owned by the Minnesota IMPLAN Group (MIG) in Minnesota (“Profile George E. Goldman”, 2002). IMPLAN allows users to construct Leontief input-output models for any county, region or state in the U.S. Like all models, IMPLAN simplifies the great complexity of the actual economy; the U.S. economy is divided into 528 sectors. These sectors closely correspond to the sectors in the Dept. of Commerce input-output model for the U.S., and roughly correspond to 3 or 4 digit level SIC codes (English, Menard, and Jensen, 2001). The IMPLAN system contains a large database of secondary published data, software, and algorithms to estimate regional input-output models. It defines the relationships between sectors in a particular local economy through a transactions table. This table provides all the sales and purchases made by different sectors of a local economy over a period of time and allows for the derivation of multipliers, that is the total dollar impact of a $1 change in output in any economic sector on the local economy. The multipliers allow one to estimate the total economic impact of one or several sectors on a regional economy (IMPLAN Professional Version 2.0, 2000; Hewings, 1985). Users of IMPLAN need only describe the direct effects of some activity on sector demands. The model develops multipliers by estimating indirect effects, that is the impact that these sectors will have on the demands of other sectors, and induced effects, that is new direct effects created by the initial direct and indirect effects.
The IMPLAN system is used widely to measure the economic impact of both non-profit and for profit activities. Examples of non-profit applications include museums, tourist attractions, and state governments. For example, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was interested in measuring the impact of two exhibitions: Faberge in America and the Lillian Thomas Pratt Collection of Faberge. It was estimated that the direct impact of visitors who would not have been in the area were it not for the Faberge exhibitions was $4.2 million. The total impact, that is the sum of the direct, indirect and induced expenditures was $8.2 million (“The Economic Impact”, 1997). Another example would be estimating the economic impact of the International Wolf Center located in Ely, Minnesota. It was estimated that the Wolf Center added $3 million of economic activity to St. Louis and Lake Counties and created 66 new jobs (Schaller, 1995). A third example was a study done by Oregon State University agricultural economists to measure the economic impact of reduced water allocation on the Klamath basin irrigation project. No more than 10% of the water from Klamath Lake could be released to the basin because of a threat to two fish species that reside in the Klamath Lake (Boggess, and Weber, 2001). Finally, an example of a state government application was estimating the economic impact of a $1 billion cut in the Minnesota state budget. It was estimated that 20,000 jobs would be lost in the short-term, with about half coming from the state and local governments and the balance coming from losses in private sector jobs (“Economists Agree”, 2001). Unfortunately, this study did not estimate the offsetting job losses from the necessary increase in taxes to plug the funding shortfall.
The applications of IMPLAN in the for-profit world are also quite varied, ranging from large industries to small tourist attractions. For example, the economic impact of the California wine industry was estimated. This industry has a total impact of $33 billion in sales, wages and economic activity, and created 145,000 jobs in California (“Economic Importance of California Wine”, 2000). Another example was a study done to measure the economic impact of the agriculture and forestry sectors on the Kentucky economy. These two industries had a total impact of $16.5 billion in sales and created 455,000 jobs (Vickner and Jones, 1999). A third example was a study to measure the economic impact of the Florida citrus nursery industry. It was estimated that this industry has a direct impact of $30 million in sales and created 600 jobs. Its total impact was $60 million in sales and the creation of 1,000 jobs (Roka, Muraro, and Rouse, 1998). A final study dealt with tourist attractions. A state-wide impact analysis was conducted for various off-highway special events held in North Carolina (the Appalachian Jamboree and the Dixie Run) and Tennessee (VSTA) (English, Menard, and Jensen, 2001).
As can be seen by the above examples, economic impact analysis has a wide array of applications at both the local and regional levels and can be used to determine impacts for both single organizations as well as for entire industries.
The Relevance of Economic Impact Methodology in a Management Curriculum:
Students graduating with a degree in management may find that understanding the mechanics of economic impact studies will be beneficial after graduation. For example, a recent management graduate of St. John's University found that economic impact studies can help justify new housing developments to local regulators (Partridge, January 2001). Graduates working in non-profit organizations also need to be familiar with economic impact studies since these studies are key in helping to make a case for increased funding. Also, many consulting companies employ professionals to conduct economic impact studies on the effects of tax breaks, subsidies, firm expansions, etc. for various governmental, non-profit, and for-profit clients.
Actually doing a real world economic impact study exposes students to a wide variety of analytical tools. First, students gain experience designing surveys to assess the direct economic contribution of visitors on a local venue. Students also learn about forecasting; impact studies require a forecast of visitor expenditures associated with a service organization for an entire year, taking into account factors such as seasonality. Additionally, by doing impact studies of both for-profit and non-profit service organizations, students learn to quantify the benefits of these organizations on the local economy. Thus, students will have a better understanding of how multipliers work as well as a better grasp of complex intersectoral linkages through indirect and induced impacts. That is, they can better see how subsidizing the arts for example can have positive spillover effects by bringing more dollars into the local economy, which positively affects retailers, restaurant owners, lodging establishments, and employees.
Economic Impact Analysis as a Service Learning Experience:
A commonly used definition of Service-Learning defines Service-Learning as a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development. Reflection and reciprocity are key concepts of service-learning. (Jacoby, 1996).
Many colleges/universities utilize service learning as a component of a particular management/business course. For example, in a corporate strategy course at the University of Notre Dame, students act as consultants to a variety of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. Sample projects include helping a homeless shelter better serve its constituencies by creating new programs and developing business plans, working with St. John's Community Association (a charitable organization), and getting involved with a neighborhood revitalization program (Davis and Michel, 2000). Utah State University's Management Department has utilized service-learning in its entry-level management courses since 1994. Sample projects from a course entitled Organizations and People include organizing a 5K fun run for Head Start and raising seed money for a skate park in Brigham City (Chandler, 2000).
The model of service learning used for our projects borrows heavily on the University of Notre Dame implementation; students utilize academic skills to consult for a local organization rather than simply volunteering manpower/time. This model benefits both the students and the community more fully because the students gain real world reinforcement of their academic skills and the community benefits because local organizations receive "free" consulting from these students. These projects foster a closer town- gown relationship between the colleges and the local community.
Incorporation of Impact Analysis into a Service Operations Management Course:
During the spring semester of 2002, students in a service operations management course at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University worked as consultants on five different economic impact projects in the local St. Cloud, MN economy. St. Cloud is a midsize community with a metropolitan area population of about 175,000. Students formed consulting groups at the beginning of the semester and each group was able to choose one of the pre-selected projects. Each service organization was contacted prior to the beginning of the semester to ensure their cooperation. The following five service organizations were selected:
1. The St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra
2. The St. Cloud Civic Center
3. The Paramount Arts District in St. Cloud, MN
4. The Stearns County History Museum in St. Cloud, MN
5. Powder Ridge Ski Area in Kimball, MN
Student groups developed their own surveys and conducted the survey field work in the first part of the semester. Upon completion of the collection of the survey data, students entered data into an Excel spreadsheet. Students needed to sort through the data to include only visitors that live outside of the study area (typically Stearns, Benton, and Sherburne Counties in Minnesota) and whose primary purpose for visiting the area was to attend the service organization of interest. Students then calculated expenditures per visit per capita for each out of town guest and extrapolated these numbers for the entire year based on annual attendance numbers provided by their service organization. The last step of this project was to enter these numbers into IMPLAN to determine the total impact of their service organization on the local economy. The focus of this project was for students to understand how to interpret the results of an economic input-output model versus the mathematical construct of this model. This worked out very well in that students’ final write-ups demonstrated a somewhat sophisticated grasp of the concepts of direct, indirect, and induced effects as well as the multiplier effect. Students also presented their results at a poster session on campus towards the end of the semester. Several of the service organizations were very interested in the results of the economic impact studies, which added to the value of the project as well. The next two sections provide more detail on the impact studies done for the St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra and the St. Cloud Civic Center.
Case Study: An Economic Impact Study of the St. Cloud Symphony on the Local Economy:
This case study includes an economic impact analysis of the St. Cloud Symphony on the local economy (Davis, et. al., Spring 2002), which was completed in the spring semester of 2002 as part of a service operations management class at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. Students wrote the following abstract as part of their poster session:
“Our project entailed conducting an economic impact analysis of the St. Cloud Symphony on the local economy. We devised a survey instrument and distributed surveys for a recent St. Cloud Symphony performance at the College of St. Benedict. After collecting this data, we entered the information into an Excel Spreadsheet. We then analyzed this data and estimated the total out-of-town visitor expenditures associated with the St. Cloud Symphony for all performances for the year. This helped us to determine the direct impact of the St. Cloud Symphony on the St. Cloud economy, which is over $50,000. The final phase of our project includes determining the TOTAL impact of the St. Cloud Symphony on the local economy. This entailed using IMPLAN (an economic input-output model), which calculates the multiplier effect of the direct effects of the out-of-town visitor expenditures on the local economy. This model calculates the indirect effects that other industries face as they sell more products to the businesses that tourists are frequenting and the induced effects of the increase in demand at other local retailers because of the additional employment at the businesses that tourists frequent. The TOTAL effect of the tourist expenditures associated with the St. Cloud Symphony on the local economy is then calculated by summing up the direct, indirect and induced effects.”
The students distributed the surveys at two performances (see appendix A for a copy of the survey). The first performance was at the Benedictine Arts Center at the College of St. Benedict (February 10th, 2002) and the second performance was at the Ritsche Auditorium at St. Cloud State University (April 14th, 2002). However, not enough surveys were collected at the second performance, so the students only used the data from the first performance and extrapolated out their numbers for the entire year of performances. The students found that the total output impact of the St. Cloud Symphony on the local economy is approximately $85,564 per year (based on IMPLAN). They also found the multiplier to be 1.52 by dividing the Total Impact by the Direct Impact ($85,564/$56,376). They correctly interpreted this as meaning that for every dollar spent at the symphony by an out of town guest, another 52 cents gets re-spent in the local economy. They identified eating/drinking establishments, amusement, and miscellaneous retail as the primary beneficiaries of the tourist expenditures.
According to Sandy Nadeau, the Executive Director of the St. Cloud Symphony and Susan Douma, the President of the St. Cloud Symphony, the study was very important to them in helping to identify (potential business) sponsors. Most of the funding for the St. Cloud Symphony comes from ticket sales, grants, and sponsors/donations. The City of St Cloud also provides a subsidy of $14,000 per year. According to Douma, the symphony is an important factor in the area in increasing the quality-of-life as well as attracting businesses to the area.
Case Study: An Economic Impact Study of the St. Cloud Civic Center on the Local Economy:
This case study includes an economic impact analysis of the St. Cloud Civic Center on the local economy (Busch, et. al., Spring 2002), which was completed in the spring semester of 2002 as part of a service operations management class at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. Students wrote the following abstract as part of their poster session:
“Our project entailed conducting an economic impact study of the St. Cloud Civic Center on the local economy. We did this by devising a survey instrument and distributing the surveys at the St. Cloud Sportsmen Show as well as the St. Cloud Home Show. Through both of these shows, we have been able to distribute a significant amount of surveys to a variety of different people. We felt we have covered a good sample of the people attending these events and we will be able to draw good information from that. We then entered our numbers into Microsoft Excel. We have good information on the Civic Center’s past years that will help us a great amount with our final project. The information on the spreadsheet indicates there is a great number of dollars invested in eating out and on miscellaneous retail. The data also suggest that there was about $56,000 in direct expenditures at these two shows by out of town guests, which translates into over $300,000 per year for all consumer shows, and over $1,000,000 for all Civic Center events. The final phase of our project includes determining the TOTAL impact of the St. Cloud Civic Center on the St. Cloud economy. This entailed using IMPLAN (an economic input-output model), which calculates the multiplier effect of the direct effects of the out-of-town visitor expenditures on the local economy. This model calculates the indirect effects that other industries face as they sell more products to the businesses that tourists are frequenting and the induced effects of the increase in demand at other local retailers because of the additional employment at the businesses that tourists frequent. The TOTAL effect of the tourist expenditures associated with the St. Cloud Civic Center on the local economy is then calculated by summing up the direct, indirect and induced effects.”
Through surveying both a Home Show and a Sportsmen Show, the students found that 25% of attendees were from outside of the local area and came to St. Cloud for the primary purpose of attending one of these shows (see appendix B for a copy of the survey). The typical group consisted of 2.67 people and spent $21.67 on miscellaneous retail, $19.30 on food and beverages, $4.67 on entertainment, $3.80 on gas, and $1.07 on parking. The total impact of the St. Cloud Civic Center on the local economy was approximately $1,484,479 (using a multiplier of 1.49).
The students did an excellent job detailing the limitations of their economic impact study. They realized that by defining the St. Cloud area as including Benton, Sherburne and Stearns County, Minnesota, that some out-of-town people that live within one of these three counties may be excluded. For example, Sauk Center is 40 miles from St. Cloud and yet is still in Stearns, County. They also realized that their sample size was small and that their results may not apply to all events (i.e. social/entertainment, convention/trade shows, and meetings/conferences) because they just surveyed consumer shows. For example, none of their visitors from outside the region stayed overnight in St. Cloud. Obviously, this is not representative of all of out town visitors since many people do come to Civic Center events from outside of the St. Cloud area and stay at local motels/hotels.
This study was of particular interest to the Manager of the St. Cloud Civic Center, Tom Henry. There is a proposal to expand the Civic Center west towards the St. Cloud Library for a total cost of $65 million (including relocating the library). St. Cloud hopes to get half of this money from the state of Minnesota. Past city referendums to fund this project via a sales tax increase have been voted down. Needless to say, the Manager of the Civic Center was disappointed with the students’ results because he was hoping for a $10 million plus impact versus a $1.5 million impact. The impact is probably closer to $2-3 million since the particular shows surveyed did not capture any of the lodging components. However, it is doubtful that the results were off by a factor of 10. Mr. Henry felt that anyone spending money at one of the Civic Center events should be counted in the economic impact. Students had to explain to him that local residents who attend the Home Show for example could have just as easily spent their money at the movies or bowling. Also, people coming to visit St. Cloud for their nephew’s wedding who happen to go to the Home Show weren’t attracted to the St. Cloud area because of the Civic Center. Finally, the businesses that are positively impacted – i.e. local hotels, restaurants, and retailers do not create very high paying jobs for the region. Thus, the expansion of the Civic Center may not be as warranted as its proponents would like us to believe. All of these issues created an excellent learning experience for the students involved in this project.
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the usefulness of exposing students to real world applications of input-output models using IMPLAN. Regional economics courses traditionally place more emphasis on discussion of input-output models rather than on hands-on modeling. However, some instructors have successfully integrated the use of IMPLAN into their regional economics courses (Maki, Loveridge, and Lichty, 1994). This paper proposes an even more novel concept of exposing non-economics majors to input-output models and IMPLAN.
An understanding of the economic impact of a particular company/industry on a region such as Central Minnesota is becoming increasingly important with the recent downturn in the local economy. For example, Fingerhut, one of St. Cloud’s largest employers, just announced that they were permanently closing, laying off thousands of workers. Also, there have been reductions in workforce/output of other companies in the region. Thus, it is important for students to understand the economic impact of any organization on the local economy. In these tight budgetary times, many organizations (both for-profit and not-for-profit) are looking at ways to justify tax breaks, subsidies, etc. Economic impact analysis is an important tool to help demonstrate an organization’s economic contribution to a region.
The use of economic impact studies for service learning offers many benefits. Students gain an appreciation of the complicated intersectoral linkages within the economy when they interpret the results of input-output models. This is accomplished without a detailed knowledge of the mechanics of input-output analysis. The key component for student learning is to focus on the big picture of what the concepts mean (i.e. the multiplier, the direct, indirect, induced, and total effects, etc.) versus the matrix algebra behind the models. Students also develop other skills such as designing surveys, doing survey research, and forecasting. The organizations and the colleges also benefit. The organizations gain the use of “free” consultants for a semester and the colleges gain more visibility in the local community.
Some fine-tuning is necessary for the successful implementation of economic impact analysis. For example, students studying the economic impact of the Stearns County History Museum found virtually no visitors from outside of the local area whose primary reason for coming to St. Cloud was to visit the museum. Hence, there is a need to identify other organizations.
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St. Cloud Symphony Survey
This survey is being conducted as a service to the St. Cloud Symphony by the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University. Results of this survey will be used to create an economic impact study of the symphony on the St. Cloud area. We appreciate you taking the time to fill out this survey.
1. Please indicate what city, county, state, and country you are traveling from:
2. Is this your primary reason for visiting this area of St. Cloud?
3. Are you a student at either CSB/SJU or SCSU? (If so; which one?)
4. How many people are in your party?
• Number of adults (18 or over) ________
• Number of children (under 18) ________
5. How many days are you visiting St. Cloud? (If you live in the area skip to question #6)
6. Please indicate your total expenditures per day for your entire party while visiting the St. Cloud Symphony
• Lodging $________
• Food/Beverage $________
• Amusement/Recreation (Including the symphony) $________
• Misc. Retail $________
• Parking $________
• Gas Money $________
7. Are you a season ticket holder to this symphony?
Comments or suggestions for the symphony (e.g. What would you like to hear?)
Thank you for your time and input!!!
St. Cloud Civic Center Survey
This survey is being conducted as a service to the St. Cloud Civic Center by the
College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University. Results of this survey will be used to create an economic impact study of the Civic Center on the greater St. Cloud area and Stearns County. We appreciate you taking the time to fill out this survey.
1. Please indicate what city, county, state, and you are traveling from:
2. Did you pay a registration fee? Y / N
3. Was this event the purpose for you coming to St. Cloud today?
4. How many people are in your party…
Adults (over 18): ________
Children (under 18): _______
5. How many days will you be visiting St. Cloud? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Other ______
6. Please indicate your total expenses PER DAY for your entire party while visiting the St. Cloud Civic Center…
Lodging $___________per day Downtown? Y/N Other ______
Eating/Drinking $__________per day Downtown? Y/N Other ______
Entertainment/Recreation $_______per day
(including admission to Civic Center)
Parking $____________per day Other ___________
Auto Gas $___________per day Other ___________
Misc. Retail $___________per day Other ___________
7. On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the best, how would you rate the Civic Center’s accommodations?
Workers Helpful 1 2 3 4 5
Signage 1 2 3 4 5
Overall Cleanliness 1 2 3 4 5
8. Do you have any suggestions or comments for the Civic Center?