University spending finances city, state

Florida A&M University is a moneymaking machine that generates a large amount of revenue for the city of Tallahassee both directly and indirectly.

FAMU contributes more than $3.7 billion to the Tallahassee-area economy, according to a report compiled by The Washington Economics Group, Inc. titled, “The Economic Impact of Florida A&M University on Florida.” The report also stated that during the 2004-2005 academic year, the University’s operating budget exceeded $425 million and visitors, who came for educational, cultural and athletic events held at the University spent over $18 million.

The U.S. Census reported there were 150,624 people residing in Tallahassee in 2000. Of those residing in the capital of Florida, 10 percent either work at or attended FAMU. Of that 10 percent more than 11,000 students are enrolled at FAMU this semester, while the school employs 3,710 people.

FAMU’s Chief Communications Officer Sharon Saunders said the annual payroll, for the 2007-2008 school year, is about $147 million, which is about $5 million bi-weekly.

“That’s a direct impact on the people of Tallahassee,” she said.

Students who live off-campus also have to pay utilities in addition to rent and a variety of other bills. Student living expenditures between 2004-2005 were just under $224 million, the WEG reported.

FAMU Homecoming

Of all the events that FAMU has, without a doubt, FAMU’s homecoming is a cash cow.

An estimated 7,778 out-of-towners contributed more than $2.2 million to the Tallahassee/Leon County area economy during FAMU’s homecoming weekend in 2004, according to a study for the Leon County Tourist Development Council, developed by Mark A. Bonn, a Florida State University professor.

Almost half of those visitors resided in local hotels staying more than 2 days, and spending more than $400,000 on accommodation. The largest chunk of revenue, 22 percent or approximately $478,000, came from game-related spending like admission fees, activities etc., the study stated. It also reported that those who came for the homecoming weekend festivities spent a combined $1 million on dining, shopping and nighttime entertainment. The nearly 8,000 visitors affected local jobs by generating $529,000 in wages paid to those, who specifically supported their presence, according to the study. Due to the multiplier effect, foreign dollars that enter the local economy circulate several times within the community. This effect translates to $3.3 million being the total amount of money gained from FAMU homecoming weekend.

A significant element of FAMU’s homecoming is the homecoming concert, which is always held at the Leon County Civic Center.

FAMU paid the Civic Center $37,000 in expenses for the 2006 homecoming concert, said Roger Englert, deputy director of the Civic Center. Those expenditures didn’t include the rental of the sound and light equipment or laborers, which the center does not provide, Englert said. According to the center’s 2002-2003 financial report, it made $605,351 in revenue from rent.

The 2007-2008 FAMU Activity and Service Fee budget set aside $117,000 for homecoming week events like the dorm step show, comedy show and fashion show, and provided $153,000 to fund the homecoming concert.

“The concert is about a $250,000 event all together,” FAMU Homecoming Concert chair Tyler Cheatham. “We have to pay for the civic center, security, marketing… everything.”

In addition to paying for the civic center and marketing, Cheatham said FAMU also paid both the Tallahassee Police Department and Leon County Sheriff Department to provide security at the concert.

Impact Extends Beyond Tallahassee

FAMU alumni make economic contributions beyond the local area. According to the WEG report, the FAMU Office of Alumni Affairs estimates that approximately 75 percent of all FAMU graduates remain in Florida once they complete their education. Alumni residing in Florida produce $1.191 billion annually, according to the report.

FAMU has a positive statewide financial impact, but the local impact is more evident.

Ben Harris, small minority business administrator for the city of Tallahassee said the University makes large contributions to local retail establishments. Everything from the mall to the supermarkets receives money because of FAMU, especially the small stores nearby campus, he said.

“A lot of the small minority businesses are geared towards the FAMU student population,” Harris added.

Sharon Liggett, CEO and president of Tallahassee Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said FAMU draws many visitors to the city.

“From alumni coming back in town for meetings and conferences that the University hosts to Parent’s weekend. A lot of events that the University hosts have a positive economic impact,” she said.

FAMU president James Ammons said that FAMU’s impact on Tallahassee exceeds monetary gains; FAMU brings a lot of diversity to the city. If FAMU was not a part of Tallahassee “it would be affected both socially and economically,” he said.