Leaving an economic impact

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A recent study revealed by the University of Waterloo has found that the post-secondary institution has a significant economic impact on the province and region.

$2.614 billion in total spending economic impacts, to be precise.

“The University of Waterloo is focused on being a global innovator, but the bulk of our funding comes from the province of Ontario. Our goal was to say to the province of Ontario, what’s the return on investments you’re getting on investment in the University of Waterloo?” said Tim Jackson, vice president of university relations for UW.

The university previously quantified its economic impact in 2001, but having expanded significantly since, thought it was time to reevaluate.

Results estimated that for each dollar of provincial government funding, nearly $9 in economic outputs was created for the 2011 fiscal year.

“A nine-to-one ratio we think is a great investment for the taxpayers,” Jackson continued.

“I think it’s a smart public relations exercise that they’ve done, because it demonstrates to government the value of a post-secondary education sector,” said Jim Butler, vice-president: finance at Wilfrid Laurier University. “And if one institution is doing that, then you can assume others are as well.”

Results also highlighted the impact of the university on local employment, finding that 72 per cent of regional companies use UW as a source of employment.

“The one thing we were pleased with is when you look at the companies that are getting spun out of the university and the companies that are affiliated with the university, it’s extremely diverse,” said Jackson, noting in addition to its tech sector benefits, businesses in the areas of life sciences and manufacturing, among others, were being created.

“The economic driver of the innovation sector locally is the University of Waterloo.”

According to Jackson, PricewaterhouseCoopers found that the university is at the heart of Waterloo Region’s innovation ecosystem.

While the study did not compare the impact of the university with other post-secondary institutions in the area, like Conestoga College and Laurier, Butler believed that the impact for WLU would likely be similar, once student population was factored in.

“Just in the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area, you’ve got three post-secondary institutions operating and it does have an impact,” he said.

“It’s a profound impact.”

Butler noted that in Brantford, skyrocketing property values are likely correlated to the economic activity of the WLU campus there.

“That’s sort of a litmus test for what’s happening in the economy.”

The study, released on Oct. 24, was conducted by Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

Leave a Reply