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11:11 PM Wed, Jan. 23rd

ASU could be economic boon


The Daily Courier

CHINO VALLEY ­ Arizona State University could provide an economic boon to the tri-city area by attracting employers who hire an educated work force, according to economic development experts.

"Economic development and strong schools go together," commented Ab Jackson, executive director of the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce. "The economic impact of having a university kind of raises the salary base or the salary level."

However, just what kind of economic effect ASU will remain to be seen and will depend on whatever shape and size a future ASU presence takes in Chino Valley. For that matter, economic development experts The Daily Courier interviewed spoke in general terms.

A university presence could have a major effect on an area with a small population base, according to Dawn McLaren, research economist for the WP Carey School of Business at the main campus of ASU in Tempe.

McLaren cited the presence of three universities in North Carolina that led to the creation of the Research Triangle: Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and, to a lesser extent, North Carolina Central University. The Research Triangle is a center for pharmaceutical and biomedical companies, and boasts a heavy concentration of Ph.D.s.

"All of those are little towns," McLaren said. "Look at what they are able to do when they get together."

Higher education can change the complexion of a community, concurred David Kincaid, a former city manager who is the economic development consultant for the Town of Chino Valley.

"Anytime you can have an institute of higher education in a community, it is only going to help," he said.

ASU boosters in Chino Valley believe a university presence would diversify a largely service- and retail-based economy by training local residents for higher-paying, knowledge-based jobs. According to the 2000 census, fewer than half of the 5,300 employed residents at the time worked in the community.

A four-year college presence would provide other benefits as well, according to Greg Fister, economic development manager for the Town of Prescott Valley, and Jane Bristol, his counterpart in Prescott.

"The important thing is less economic and more quality of life in the sense that you are providing something that is needed for the tri-city area, and the economic benefits are secondary," Fister said.

Bristol agreed, saying, "The biggest thing that you have to point to is the opportunity for local residents to get an education locally."

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