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Executive Summary

Humboldt State University (HSU) is situated in the heart of rural northern California, and acts as a key engine for the region’s economy. The University is responsible for attracting dynamic new residents to the region, and graduating well-prepared students, many of whom stay in the region and support the growth of the local economy. HSU impacts the region in a wide variety of ways: through direct employment and secondary industry activity and taxes generated by spending in the local economy; the quality education it offers students; the innovations it spawns; and the community services it provides. This study seeks to quantify HSU’s economic impact on the region, and document the broader ways that the University impacts the region’s workforce, innovation system, entrepreneurial capacity, and community assets.

Humboldt County Impact

  • HSU generates over $567 million in total annual industry activity
  • Supports 6,240 jobs in Humboldt County
  • Creates more than $38 million in state and local tax revenue annually

Economic Impact of HSU

The economic impact of HSU can be accounted for, in monetary terms, through its spending, student activity and the incremental life-time income of its alumni. The direct economic activity associated with the University has a multiplier effect on employment, labor income and industry activity across the region. Quantifying these impacts will allow HSU to raise awareness about its crucial role in the regional economy.

Utilizing the input-output model IMPLAN, ICF determine the impact of the University on Humboldt County and downscaled results for City of Arcata. In 2018, HSU-related activity supported 6,240 annual jobs and generated more than $180 million in labor income. HSU is the largest employer in Humboldt County, and one of only three employers with over 1,000 employees.1 2HSU supports more than 10% of total regional employment.3 This activity drives a substantial amount of industry activity- more than $567 million throughout the region. HSU also generated upwards of $38 million in state and local tax revenue, or approximately $4,914 tax dollars per enrolled student.4 Approximately $5.1 million of tax revenue is generated in Arcata.

Read more on the Economic Impact of HSU section.

Educational Pathway, Diversity, and Workforce Development

HSU attracts diverse students to the region in growing numbers, and provides education opportunity to locals of all ages. Each year HSU serves a student body of seven to eight thousand students, many of whom will become future residents of the region. HSU students are diverse in backgrounds, with a wide range of ethnicities and over half are first-generation or low-income students.5

A strong primary education system is critical to a well-functioning local labor force. HSU supports the region’s K-12 population with multiple programs, including Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduates Programs (GEAR UP),6 Upward Bound,7 and the Youth Mentoring Program.8 Opportunities for community members to enrich their skills exist through the College of Extended Education, Credential program in teaching, and life-long learning for the 50+ community at the Osher Institute.9

HSU graduates support the growth of key regional industries. Three of the most prominent sectors are forestry, fishing, and environmental engineering. Forestry-related employment has increased 123% between 2009 and 2018 in Humboldt County, replacing jobs lost due to the declining timber industry.10 HSU facilities, such as its state of the art wildland fire lab, and student interns in Redwood Rising support research and conservation of the regions forests, while numerous graduates have gone on to work in and start companies in the forestry industry. Humboldt Bay has long been a hub of activity for the fishing industry, particularly for the bivalve industry.11 HSU supplies the fishing sector with graduates from the only fisheries management program in the State. Moreover, students and faculty conduct research and support activities to restore regional fishery ecosystems. Finally, HSU’s environmental resources engineering (ERE) graduates have started numerous local companies, become regional leaders, and assisted in the creation of clean energy systems in the region.12

Read more on the Local Impact section.

Research, Innovation, and Sustainability

HSU activities foster innovation, technology development, and community engagement around environmental sustainability. The University conducts a significant amount of externally-funded research, receiving $28 million in funding in the 2017-18 academic year. Research projects are largely focused on education, natural resource management, energy, and sustainability issues. One prominent outcome of University research is the clean energy microgrid at the Redwood Coast Airport.

HSU students are deeply engaged with local environmental issues thanks to HSU’s place-based and experiential research opportunities known as Learning Communities. The Klamath connection allows students to engage in improving the health and resiliency of the region’s Klamath River, while Among the Giants allows biological science students to super and conserve the biodiversity of the region. Rising Tides creates the opportunity for marine biology and oceanography students to conduct hands-on research along the regions coast-line.

The HSU Schatz Energy Research Center (Schatz Center) has been promoting the use of clean energy technologies for 30 years. Working in collaboration with local organizations and Tribes, the Schatz Center has analyzed the region’s energy needs, created a plan for powering the County, and implemented vital clean energy systems. Schatz Center’s development of three microgrids has paved the way for greener, more resilient energy systems across the region.

Read more on the Research Impact section.

Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development

HSU’s business education strengthens entrepreneurial skills and activity in and around Humboldt County, and the HSU-sponsored Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is a critical hub for small business development support services across the multi-county Northern California region. The Institute for Entrepreneurship Education (IEE) promotes enterprises education on campus and collaborates with local businesses though small business speaker series.13 The Entrepreneurs Club is another resource linking students, faculty, and community members passionate about entrepreneurship. The club hosts events and discussion open to community and HSU members.14 Students become actively involved with local businesses through Business School internship programs. Students support businesses in planning, social media, financing, and accounting. Over 100 local businesses and organizations have benefited from HSU interns.15 HSU students also directly help the community by serving as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) interns, helping low-income community members correctly file taxes and maximize returns.

The HSU-based NorCal SBDC Lead Center oversees a regional small business development program for the 36 Northern California counties. HSU provides the physical space, financing, and administrative support for this hub of regional economic development. The SBDC has counseled nearly 36,000 small businesses, assisted in launching more than 2,500 new businesses, and helped create more than 18,000 jobs. Many businesses served by the SBDC now provide long needed community assets, such as the tribe-owned grocery store in Hoopa Valley, which alleviated food access issues in the area.

Read more on the Business Impact section.

Community Assets and Services

HSU actively serves the surrounding community, through community-driven research conducted at the California Center for Rural Policy (CCRP). The CCRP promotes evidence-based policy and planning research to address critical community need. In the past, CCRP played a vital role in ensure reliable broadband connection in rural Humboldt and Del Norte Counties.16 Ongoing CCRP efforts include evaluating community health and wellness, and ensuring food security. In 2010 the CCRP developed a set of community health indicators, which were later used by Del Norte County to determine allocation of the Building Healthy Communities grant. CCRP regularly performs assessments of community health which are used to implements effective policy solutions.17 Additionally, CCRP funds the Humboldt Food Policy Council, which brings together food system stakeholders to ensure the regional food system is equitable and sustainable.18

HSU students serve their community providing thousands of hours of service each year. Youth Education Services (YES) on campus engages 300-400 student volunteers in community service programs each semester. Annually, YES students contribute 20,000 service hours, a value of $495,000 to the community.19 Service Learning and Academic Internships also create community-serving opportunities for students. Annually nearly 1,140 students participate in Service Learning and Academic Internship courses, serving an estimated 78,000 hours, a value near $1.9 million to the community.20

Finally, HSU provides vital cultural amenities to the region—including lectures, performances, and the public radio station KHSU—that make it a better place to live, work, learn, and play. The University hosts multiple educational conventions open to the public, such as the Sustainable Speakers Series and Zero Waste Conference.21 The HSU Center Arts hosts well-known musical guests and speakers. In AY 2017-18 Center Arts hosted 59 events for nearly 40,000 community and HSU participants.22 Another community asset licensed to the University is KHSU. KHSU is a public, community-supported commercial radio station that often highlights University and student activities. The broadcast educates and entertains approximately 135,000 people across Northwest California and Southwest Oregon.23

Read more on the Community Impact section.