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Mizzou Money Maker

Spurring Missouri's Economy 

Amazing things happen when you bring 3,000 faculty, 35,000 students and 10,000 staff together in the pursuit of knowledge and discovery. But assigning a value to “amazing” can be difficult, says Steven Devlin, program director for MU Extension’s Business Development Program.

Nevertheless, here are a few key numbers that illustrate the University of Missouri’s economic impact on the state.

The main output of the university is its alumni. But since adding economic development to its mission in 2004, the university has ramped up its activity in business development and intellectual property.

Devlin oversees business development programs that have helped many small business owners across Missouri grow their sales. Over a three-year span, the businesses have received $20 million in federal, state and local investment. They used that money to create or retain 24,180 jobs and increase sales by $439 million. That’s a return on investment of $119 for every $1 invested.

On campus, the MU Life Science Business Incubator, managed by the Missouri Innovation Center, has helped faculty researchers take their intellectual property from lab to market. Together with the Office of Technology Management and Industry Relations, MU’s schools and colleges, and the faculty, staff and students doing the work, the incubator has helped launch 60 startup companies. Collectively, they have received more than $17 million in investments, directly created 35 jobs and indirectly created 70 more.

Three MU startups have reached more than $1 million in sales, and at least eight have attracted $1 million in investment. These businesses are located in the state and employ tax-paying Missouri residents.

One such company, Nanova, produces polymer and microfiber dental fillings and bone screws, and is developing a cold-plasma dental brush. The company recently received a $7 million investment from a Chinese firm and opened a manufacturing facility in Columbia.

Do you think that investment would have come to Columbia if [co-founder Hao Li, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering] hadn’t been here as a research faculty member?” Devlin asks.

Since 2005, the number of manufacturing jobs in Missouri — the traditional means of achieving a middle-class lifestyle without a college degree — has fallen by 16 percent. Construction jobs have fallen by 21 percent. Meanwhile, the population of Missourians age 24 to 65 has grown by 4.3 percent.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to succeed economically without post-secondary training. “Our economy is going to be driven by a skilled workforce,” says Mark McIntosh, interim vice chancellor for research, graduate studies and economic development. “The university needs to be responding to the needs of a skill-based economy.”

Every year, Mizzou graduates more than 8,000 students. More than 125,000 Mizzou alumni live in Missouri. According to estimates in the 2007 study, the present value of lifetime earnings of a UM System graduate is $175,000 more than someone with only a high school diploma. Adjusted for inflation, that is $200,000 in today’s dollars.

Looking to the future, the math is simple, Devlin says. “Companies are not going to locate where they don’t have the people to get the work done.”

For more on this story visit the Mizzou News website.