UCF Study Shares Economic Impacts and Expansion Plans

Senior Director Owen Beitsch, PhD, FAICP, CRE joins us as a guest blogger to talk about the benefits and potential impact of GAI’s recent Economic and Fiscal Impact Analysis project with the University of Central Florida.

The University of Central Florida (UCF), located about 15 miles northeast of Downtown Orlando, is already one of the nation’s largest universities with an enrollment of 60,000 students annually. Due to its existing size, the scale of its proposed Downtown Orlando campus might be discounted by the casual observer. This expanded campus will be the equivalent population of a small Florida community, with a budget and administrative responsibilities comparable in scope. At an estimated student and faculty population of 13,000 to 15,000, the Downtown Orlando campus will itself be larger than many of the nation’s well-known colleges. To place the population in perspective, Duke has an enrollment of about 14,000 students, Emory has about 12,000 students, and Clemson has about 17,000 students.

Because of its large size, the institution has abundant academic resources and could easily have completed its Economic and Fiscal Impact Analysis internally. However, these kinds of impact studies are often controversial and subject to scrutiny. For example, it is also not unusual to ignore the movement and displacement of income and expenditures, which together can overstate the effects of development. It is not unusual or misleading to use such studies for promotional activities, but their primary purpose is to affect sound policy and deliberation based on certain economic benchmarks.

To assure an independent and balanced treatment of these and related issues, UCF selected GAI to provide a reliable and recognized outside source of analysis. I am personally very pleased that our firm was asked to do this study, which addressed many questions about the University’s proposed expansion plans. Our role satisfies important community objectives and illustrates how these studies, when done properly, can be part of a fuller review and evaluation process.

The intention of this and similar studies is to estimate what development and business plans mean economically, but such studies can also be the focus of discussions about the obligations and benefits of all parties involved. At face value, the information contained in the UCF study is pivotal to creating the partnerships needed to launch an initiative of this size.

Read more about the University’s expansion plans and related economic impact in a recent Orlando Business Journal article, UCF’s John Hitt: Downtown campus to create 4,070 jobs.

For more advice on economic planning and infrastructure investment, contact Owen Beitsch at 407.423.8398.

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