UNC Asheville’s economic impact totals $450 million in 2017

The Top States

Press release from UNC Asheville:

UNC Asheville, an academic anchor institution and one of the top 20 employers in the Asheville area, raised local economic output by almost half a billion dollars in fiscal year 2017, according to an economic impact study conducted by Tom Tveidt of SYNEVA Economics LLC.

“It is clear that UNC Asheville is an engine of economic growth within the region. While it is impossible to put a value on the cultural impact of the institution, the students and wide scope of events held on campus reinforce the critical role the university plays in the creative economy. UNC Asheville’s regional impact is multifaceted, vibrant, sustainable and diverse, further solidifying its status as the academic, athletic, cultural, economic and social hub of the region,” said Tveidt in the report published today.

UNC Asheville’s total economic impact is $450 million annually in the region, an increase of more than $100 million from the previous study completed five years ago, also authored by Tveidt.

The 2017 study finds that economic activity generated by UNC Asheville also supports 3,911 local jobs and adds $164.6 million in local income within the four-county metropolitan area of Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison. The university increases annual tax revenues by more than $62.4 million dollars.

“This report quantifies many aspects of our work and exemplifies how a liberal arts education impacts the local community, from the capital projects being constructed on campus to the daily conversations and collaborations happening in our studios, classrooms and labs. Asheville’s university is a regional powerhouse, creating jobs, educating citizens, attracting visitors to the area, and in many cases, giving visitors a great reason to stay, while contributing to the creative economy of our state and region,” said UNC Asheville’s Interim Chancellor Joe Urgo.

The economic impact study completed by SYNEVA Economics LLC for fiscal year 2017 provides a comprehensive analysis of the university’s impact upon the regional economy, objectively quantifying local spending and tracking spending as it moves through the local economy.

Categories of impact include:

· Campus Operations of $278 million

· Alumni Education Premium of $96.1 million accounting for the value of spending by the more than 7,000 alumni in the area, who have increased spending power attributed to the attainment of a bachelor’s or graduate degree

· Student Spending of $44.3 million

· Outside Visitor Spending of $15.3 million

· Annual New Resident Attraction of $9.4 million

· On-campus Capital Spending of $7 million in fiscal year 2017

UNC Asheville also plans to invest more than $79 million in capital projects over the next five years, leading to an annual average of 224 local jobs, $3.1 million in local income, $31 million in raised economic output and $2.6 million in generated tax revenue.

Two major contributors to the university’s economic impact include UNC Asheville’s NCAA Division I Athletics, with an economic impact of $16.6 million, and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), which raises economic output in the local economy by $12.6 million. Both Athletics and OLLI also support a substantial number of jobs, attract visitors for their events, and as a result, add tax revenues annually. The report estimates that at least 52,000 visitors attend UNC Asheville events or activities hosted on campus annually.

“The pursuit of greatness extends beyond our Big South Champion teams, as we welcome fans to our athletic competitions in our 16 NCAA Division I sports and partner with the community to host events throughout the year,” said UNC Asheville Athletics Director Janet Cone. “We’re planning capital improvements to our Outdoor Sports Complex and renovations to the Justice Center that will continue to provide economic value and a great visitor experience in the coming years too.”

UNC Asheville’s students, faculty, staff, and the 2,500 members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute also directly contribute to the community experience through volunteer hours, totaling 100,000 hours annually. While this impact is not measured economically, it represents significant civic engagement, equaling 15 or more hours per campus community member.

“Our Osher Lifelong Learning Institute members love being connected to Asheville and to our campus,” said OLLI at UNC Asheville Executive Director Catherine Frank. “Over half cite OLLI as a deciding factor in choosing Asheville and Western North Carolina as their retirement destination, and once here they make major contributions to the well-being and economic success of the area, including the 110 organizations where they volunteer independently, as well as through the courses and community lectures offered at OLLI.”

The economic effects of human resources are far-reaching beyond campus, including employment, as the 823 UNC Asheville employees account for less than one-quarter of the 3,911 local jobs UNC Asheville supports. Outside of Education Services, UNC Asheville supports 500 local jobs in Retail Trade, 488 local jobs in Health & Social Services, 425 local jobs in Restaurants & Lodging and 367 local jobs in Real Estate & Rental Services, which are among the largest categories.

“UNC Asheville is committed to sustaining the people and the place that we have called home since our founding in 1927. As we celebrate 90 years of educational leadership, we thank those community members who founded our campus and who have helped it grow and excel throughout the decades. We celebrate the work of each of our employees and all of our statewide supporters, who together are a driving force behind our local contributions and our national leadership in liberal arts education,” said Interim Chancellor Urgo.

The economic impact report also accounts for UNC Asheville’s return on investment on the state appropriations for fiscal year 2017. UNC Asheville provides a measurable return on investment for each dollar appropriated by the state of North Carolina, increasing income by $4.13 in the Asheville area and increasing total economic output by $11.30. Economic value is raised by $6.56 for each dollar appropriated.

Read more in UNC Asheville’s 2017 Economic Impact study at impact-2017.

UNC Asheville released the study at a public presentation on Jan. 24, 2018 at the U.S. Cellular Center – a presentation which also featured comments from community leaders:

Representative Susan Fisher, N.C. General Assembly – “Education is the key to our economic future. A sustainable economic future in our region requires skilled graduates prepared for good jobs. That is exactly what UNC Asheville is providing year-in and year-out. … UNC Asheville alumni take the liberal arts with them from classroom to career, turning real-world learning into real-life achievement. … As North Carolina’s only public liberal arts university, it’s clear UNC Asheville is an engine of economic growth within the region.”

Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler, Asheville City Council – “Every great city needs a great university, and clearly, UNC Asheville is ours. The impact is incredible. I also continue to celebrate the partnership that the city government and the university share. We collaborate on a lot of projects. To name a few: environmental sustainability, climate and technology, economic development, and diversity. I look forward to continuing that partnership.”

Commissioner Al Whitesides, Buncombe County Board of Commissioners – “You’ve heard about the economic impact … let me give you a snapshot of some of Buncombe County’s partnerships with UNC Asheville: The Center for Creative Retirement [now called OLLI, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute] brings the broad expertise of retirees in our community, lending their knowledge and support to county and board-appointed commissions. We also have the Western North Carolina Diversity Engagement Coalition, co-founded with UNC Asheville. … We have the Western North Carolina Diversity Support Network, dedicated to amplifying the efforts of small minority businesses. … We have worked extensively with [UNC Asheville’s] Center for Diversity Education.”

Kit Cramer, President & CEO, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce – “There are so many ways – tentacles is a good description – that education supports economic development. Our team working every single day on business recruitment, retention, expansion and the growth of entrepreneurs, will tell you that the presence of a university is an absolute must. And to have a university of the quality of UNC Asheville is such an asset.”

Rick Lutovsky, Vice Chair, UNC Asheville Board of Trustees, and former President & CEO, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce – “You’ve heard about the great programs at the university – there are two that have come about in the past 10 years I’d like to mention. The Mechatronics Program, a joint venture between UNC Asheville and North Carolina State University, has a 100 percent placement rate for grads and it turns out to be a great tool for us in recruiting companies. … The [UNC Eshelman] Pharmacy School is another program that came about in the last six or seven years. …We are moving toward world class in our community and in our university and we’re only going to get better.”


UNC Asheville is the designated liberal arts institution for the UNC system and one of the nation’s top 10 public liberal arts universities. Enrolling 3,800 students and offering more than 30 undergraduate majors and a Master of Liberal Arts and Sciences degree, UNC Asheville encourages students to take part in a nationally acclaimed undergraduate research program and participate in interdisciplinary learning. From internships and hands-on projects, to study abroad and community engagement, students experience an education that extends beyond campus into the vibrant City of Asheville, the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains and the world. Learn more at


SYNEVA Economics LLC (tagline: understand your economy) is a private research and information firm dedicated to assisting decision makers with high-quality, innovative, local and regional economic analysis. Since 2003 the firm has provided clear, unbiased and insightful analysis to dozens of communities and organizations across the United States. Services include community economic and demographic assessments, industry target selections, industry appraisals, impact analyses, and workforce/skills analyses. Learn more at

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