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Ridgewater works with businesses to improve the region’s economy

Ridgewater College carpentry students work on a house in October 2012 on 20th Avenue Southeast in Willmar. The house is expected to be completed sometime this month. Tribune file photo by Gary Miller

A recent study indicated that Ridgewater College has a $90 million economic impact on the region around its campuses in Willmar and Hutchinson.

Ridgewater President Douglas Allen said the college often works with businesses by providing training for employees and sending out well-qualified graduates.

The college has about 350 separate contracts with area businesses to provide training, Allen said.

In addition, every program preparing students for occupations has an advisory group made up of local business people, he said. That includes programs that train students for health professions, agriculture, veterinary medicine and building trades.

“We have a huge number of businesses that we work with,” Allen said. “I think we’ve increased every year.”

The economic impact study conducted by Wilder Research left him “sort of stunned by some of the figures,” Allen said.

The study estimates the economic impact of the college’s 558 graduates in 2011 will be $36.2 million in future value to the state. The estimate takes into account additional earnings of graduates due to their training.

Along with the $90 million in overall economic impact jobs, Ridgewater generates about $5 million in tax revenue for state and local governments. “The part that makes me most proud is that we generate 1,172 jobs,” Allen said.

According to the study, students will earn more in the future as their training helps them meet the needs of businesses.

Allen said the college sends interns to numerous businesses in the region. Businesses also hire many graduates.

Allen said he was pleased to see the college’s value to the region spelled out in the study.

The study also looked at the statewide impact of the 31 schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

Allen and college spokeswoman Liz VanDerBill pointed to the state’s return on investment for the system, $13.53 return for each $1 of state appropriation.

“I thought that was pretty amazing,” VanDerBill said.

“Higher education is an investment for the state,” Allen said. “It just seems counterproductive to me when people want to talk about improving the economy and cut higher ed.”

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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