Pitt-Bradford an 'anchor institution' for region

Campus tour

             That Pitt-Bradford acts as an “anchor institution” in the economy of North Central Pennsylvania is something many in the region have long known to be true, but a study conducted last summer by a University of Pittsburgh economist has quantified what had been more of a hunch.

            For starters, the study, conducted by Dr. Sabina Deitrick, director of the Urban and Regional Analysis Program at the Center for Social and Urban Research, along with Christopher Briem and William Lafe, determined that Pitt-Bradford generated $67.5 million to the regional economy and supported 740 jobs in the region in 2011.

            Those counties, McKean, Elk, Warren and Cattaraugus, N.Y., are home to 2,676 alumni working in medical centers and other health care facilities, education, manufacturing and more.

            While it’s not too hard to quantify the value of items purchased by the university directly as well as its faculty, staff and students, it’s tougher to quantify the very real benefit of increasing the ability and value of workers in the region.

            “[Pitt-Bradford] acts to attract newcomers to the region and helps to retain educated students,” the authors wrote in their report. The Bridges and College in the High School programs provide an opportunity for high school students to further their education before they graduate. That opportunity is attractive for parents relocating to or determining whether to stay in the area.

            One of the incalculable benefits of Pitt-Bradford has been to help stem “brain drain” from the region by making a high-quality education available close to home. The authors cite a study from Economic Development Quarterly that found that where students attend college affects where they live once they graduate from college. If students left the region for college, they are more likely to remain where they studied than to move back to their hometown.

            The retention of qualified workers helps local employers, particularly those that need employees trained in specific areas such as nursing, business management, criminal justice and human relations.

            Between 2000 and 2010, 83 percent of Pitt-Bradford’s social science majors remained within Pitt-Bradford’s six-county service region (Cameron, Elk, McKean, Potter, Warren and Cattaraugus) to work. Of information systems graduates, 76.2 percent remained in the region, and 72.2 percent of both nursing and psychology majors have remained in the area to work for such employers as Bradford Regional Medical Center and Beacon Light Behavioral Health Systems, the two top employers of Pitt-Bradford graduates.

            While the money spent by graduates in the region is substantial, the direct expenditures by Pitt-Bradford are significant as well, totaling $39.7 million in 2011. In addition, the university’s approximately 1,500 students spent $10.8 million in 2010-2011 in off-campus housing, groceries, food, entertainment and other discretionary spending.

            “Students residing off campus can be expected to have a direct impact on local real estate markets,” the authors wrote. “Even in situations where students reside at home, if they were to attend school elsewhere, it is likely they would incur expenditures for housing in another region. The ability to capture or retain those expenses is considered a benefit to the region.”

            Capital projects are another area where Pitt-Bradford has benefitted the local economy. Beginning in 2001, the university has grown its physical campus exponentially, averaging $6.4 million in capital expenditures annually and erecting four major new buildings, extensively renovating and expanding two more, and renovating two academic buildings as well as building and renovating athletic fields and electrical infrastructure. A projected new residence hall for 2014 means that this trend will continue in the next few years.

            As an employer, the university ranked seventh in McKean County in the first quarter of 2012, providing the full-time equivalent of 555 high-quality jobs with competitive pay and generous benefits.

            The university’s employees contribute greatly to the fabric of the community, volunteering in leadership positions such as Bradford City Council and with the boards of countless organizations. Students and employees provide thousands of service hours annually coordinated by the recently created Office of Community Engagement.

            Faculty and students are providing expertise and work worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the local economy through their work to study the viability of trails in the region, trail promotion, development of a trails mobile phone application, and creation and implementation of inmate programs at the Federal Correctional Institution – McKean.

            Because no college or university existed in North Central Pennsylvania prior to Pitt-Bradford’s establishment in 1963, all of these benefits can be considered a net gain for the area.

            As 2013 moves forward, university officials are planning for a celebration of Pitt-Bradford’s 50th anniversary, which will include public events, the installation and unveiling of a bronze panther statue created by Bradford native David Hodges, and a fundraising campaign to benefit scholarships, academics, the arts and technology, among other priorities.