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By Matt Tomsic
Charleston Regional Business Journal
September 5, 2012
Clemson University contributed nearly $10 million to the Lowcountry economy in 2010, and university officials expect those contributions to grow once its drivetrain testing facility and graduate education center in North Charleston are completed.
Clemson released the findings Tuesday of an economic impact study performed by its Strom Thurmond Institute for Government and Public Affairs.
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Statewide, Clemson’s economic impact averaged about $1.7 billion each year from 2001 through 2010, the period studied by economists. The university’s impact exceeded its annual state appropriations by an average of $31.1 million each year.
In the Lowcountry, Clemson generated 82 jobs in 2010 and $5.5 million in disposable income. By 2015, the university expects to invest more than $140 million in new facilities and double its employment.
Clemson’s footprint here includes a Clemson Cooperative Extension office, the Spaulding Paolozzi Center for architecture and historic preservation on Meeting Street, the Bioengineering Alliance at the Medical University of South Carolina and the Coastal Research and Education Center off Highway 17. The university also operates the Restoration Institute in North Charleston, which includes the Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility, the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center, the Clemson Center for Workforce Development and the Warren Lasch Conservation Center.
University President James Barker said the study ended about the time Clemson broke ground on its Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility, which will be able to test drivetrains up to 15 megawatts, so its impacts are not included. The Zucker Family Graduate Education Center, which will offer advanced engineering degrees, was also not included since officials just announced the project this summer.
“This is a conservative report,” Barker said. “This only really scratches the surface of Clemson’s contribution to South Carolina.”
Barker said the university isn’t ready to announce any updates or industry partners for its drivetrain testing facility, but the advisory board includes about 17 of the major worldwide producers of wind energy. He said the drivetrain testing facility will help engineers find the amount of torque and stress that drivetrains can manage.
Engineers need to know the breaking point of the drivetrains since they’ll be susceptible to high winds and hurricanes, Barker said.
“You don’t want to send frogmen or anybody else out there to fix those things,” he added.
Barker said the economic impact study provides accountability for the university in a way separate from its graduation rates, tuition and other metrics. The study shows the return on investment when the state puts money in Clemson’s hands.
Robert Carey, a research associate for the Strom Thurmond Institute, said he was surprised at the magnitude of money that is returned to the state through economic activity generated by Clemson.
“It was just good to be able to point to a bright spot and say Clemson is doing this in the state,” Carey said.