That college campuses have an economic impact on their neighboring communities is undeniable. But while that impact is most frequently measured in terms of expenditures—an increase, for example, in the quantity of coffees or school supplies purchased—the effects begin to be felt even before the first student arrives.
That's because building a college campus is no small feat—and with the anticipated expansion of the OSU-Cascades campus to accommodate a full-fledged, four-year college, that means planning and design, construction and infrastructure.
"Over the next 10 years, OSU-Cascades will add an average 100,000 square feet per year to support the academic, residential, student life and research needs of the campus and its students and faculty," says Kelly Sparks, OSU-Cascades' associate vice president of finance and strategic planning. "On average, OSU-Cascades will be a consistent driver of about 200 construction jobs annually."
She estimates that, at any given time during a fluctuating construction process, an average of 160 people will be employed each week in construction alone (a number roughly 2.6 percent of all current construction jobs which, in turn, is roughly 6 percent of the total Central Oregon work force). And, if the college has its way, these workers will be local residents making competitive wages.
"Any contractor hired by OSU is required to fully comply with the conditions identified by the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, which establishes the minimum hourly rate for wages based on state prevailing wage laws and the federal Davis-Bacon Act," Sparks explains. "A contractor is required to submit a report identifying minority, women, and emerging small businesses enterprises under contract for the project. The use of local sub-contractors will be strongly encouraged, but also dependent on their availability and qualifications."
In addition to its own college-sponsored construction, Sparks anticipates a ripple effect: The college's presence will prompt the construction of additional multi-family and student housing in the area, creating additional construction and real estate jobs.
"There is express interest on the part of private developers and potentially [Central Oregon Community College] to develop housing options for students in Bend; we are open to and interested in these partnerships," Sparks says. "A growth in offsite multi-family housing will be a boon for students, but also for workforce housing. New multi-family housing options will be attractive for millennial recruits for our local and growing high-tech, outdoor product, healthcare, bio-sciences and beer industries. An additional benefit is that OSU-Cascades graduates will have housing options as they enter the workforce."
Andy High, vice president for governmental affairs for the Central Oregon Builders Association (COBA), also foresees a far-reaching impact from OSU-Cascades' expansion, starting with construction of college buildings and housing for students and faculty and continuing into the surrounding community.
"We will see demand for more services as the college expands," High explains. "This will provide a great opportunity for business to grow and expand. This will also drive the business owners and investors to spend capital on remodels and redevelopment thus driving a need for family wage construction jobs."
And while the increased construction and redevelopment activity will be a boon to the local economy, City Business Advocate Carolyn Eagan says the City is less reliant on those industries than it once was—and that's a good thing.
"Prior to the 2007-2008 recession, Bend was very dependent on the construction and real estate industries," Eagan says, noting that their share of the workforce went from 17 percent pre-Recession to about 11 percent today. "That may not seem like a huge difference, but since employment in retail and at restaurants and hotels is a smaller percent of Bend's employment than it was prior to the recession, it means that employment is growing in tech, health care and other sectors that will make the area more resistant to drastic changes in the housing market."