University of Arizona Impact More Than Just Dollar Signs | Tech Parks Arizona
   The University of Arizona

University of Arizona Impact More Than Just Dollar Signs

Inside Tucson Business
March 18, 2016
Logan Burtch-Buus


The benefit and impact of a major university situated within the city has in many ways been a fundamental part of the story and success of the Tucson region. Whether by measuring employee wages and salaries, direct university expenditures or the acquisition of knowledge through discovery, the impact of the University of Arizona has been nothing if not paramount.

According to the most recent statistics available from the university, the economic impact of the U of A totals over $8 billion into the local economy. With well over 65,000 jobs created throughout the state, including direct and indirect growth, the picture of the true value of a university like the U of A becomes slightly clearer.

The economic impact is much more complicated than a combination of creating revenue and job growth. The university also assists in a variety of business processes; from the implementation of new technologies and inventions into the job market to filing unique patents, launching start-up businesses or hosting industry incubators, the university is just as vital to the job market as to education.

“We are creating these graduates,” said U of A assistant vice president for community relations Tannya R. Gaxiola, “that come out with a world-class education that are capable of being employees here, helping drive the economy forward, come out with new knowledge that our researchers are creating and applying that knowledge in ways that help to drive the economy forward.”

According to Gaxiola, the role of the university in being an economic driver is in part due to just how varied the efforts are of both the U of A and its many graduates working throughout Arizona. Of the nearly 150,000 people who graduated from the U of A between 1990 and 2012, over 56,000 are still working within the state, earning over $3 billion in wages and paying an estimated $237 million in local and state taxes.

Whether a first-year student looking for an internship or a graduate searching for a professional position, the university has developed ways to support its students, as well as stimulate businesses. By connecting employers with human capital, the university’s Career Services acts as a one-stop-shop for employers to access when looking for talent, said executive director of career services & student engagement Eileen McGary.

“We work with students throughout the life cycle to prepare them for careers,” she said, “to help them get applied, gain meaningful experience, help them identify in what direction they want to go and then launch their careers as graduates of the university and continue to support their professional development through programs to our alumni.”

Alumni choosing to remain affiliated with the university have ample opportunity to do so, especially in the light of the over $1 billion of impact brought in by U of A research alone, along with the creation of over 8,000 jobs.

McGary said one of the most vital aspects of economic development, and part of what the university offers, is a way by which businesses and potential employees are made aware of one another. Therefore, sometimes the mission of career services is to introduce people and create awareness of opportunities.

Good news for Tucson, McGary said a lot of those opportunities remain right here in the city.

“It does definitely depend on the path that they want to go and the opportunities and what fits,” she said, “but I would say that just looking at our graduates coming out from 14-15’, the majority are staying in Arizona. Looking at the stats, the majority of those are in Tucson.”

After graduating, why do so many alumni remain in Tucson? 

That too is in some way due to the efforts of the university. Helping to bring the many inventions and discoveries of the U of A to the world by commercial means is Tech Launch Arizona.

“Universities play a major economic role in the communities in which they are located,” said Tech Launch Arizona Vice President David Allen. “UA and the Tucson region experience this dynamic. Within this context, Tech Launch Arizona identifies, protects and conveys discoveries from the research enterprise into the marketplace. The UA Tech Park is also part of TLA. Our greatest impact is in Tucson, where most of the university’s startups are located and the companies located at the Tech Park that employs nearly 6,500 people.”

The inventive and entrepreneurial drive Allen mentioned can be seen clearly in the various means by which the university has driven economic growth. In 201, more than 200 invention disclosures leading to promising new technologies were filed; 12 new startup companies were launched; 200 patents were filed and 44 companies were residing in the Tech Park, increased by five over the previous year.  

“Our students,” said McGary, “once you give them a little direction, often they really are stellar in what they can accomplish in projects that a company might not have been able to complete.”

From looking to invite business to relocate in the area to creating thousands upon thousands of jobs for local employees, the economic impact of the University of Arizona is much more than monetary figures and financial analysis — it’s about creating a stronger and more successful environment for all to prosper.


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