LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - $603 million a year. That's the price tag a new study just put on the University of Southern Mississippi's economic impact.
USM officials used a Coast Chamber sponsored Economic Vibe meeting Thursday to reveal the study's findings. It showed the school paid $33 million in taxes, employed more than 4,200 people, and created almost 1,300 hundred jobs on the coast.
"We understand the impact of Southern Miss, but to see it in stark black and white like this is impressive and important. Because we're going to see more research, we're going to see more growth," said Thomas Broadus with the Focus Group.
To grow, more students are needed. And school leaders already have a plan to make that happen.
"Just doing a lot of direct marketing. We've gone out very strong this year with high school students in particular. We've got a transfer team that works with the community college students and we're working to grow," explained USM Dean of Admissions Kate Howard.
The Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach will play a major role in that growth.
"Our commitment is strong," said Campus Vice-President Dr. Steve Miller. "In the two years that I've been here, since June of 2014, we've invested almost $10 million in infrastructure and improvements. And we've got about another $15 million on the books going forward for that campus."
One of the topics that came up at the Economic Vibe was Mississippi's so-called "brain drain." Currently, 40 percent of the students who graduate from USM leave the state for more money and better opportunities. What can be done to stop that?
"We need to do more and we need to do better in terms of tying our research and our education to diversifying the state's economy. If we can do that, that's going to promote job growth and that's the key to keeping those who grow up here, to stay here," said Doug Vinzant, USM's Vice-President of Finance and Administration.
Following Thursday's presentation on the coast, USM officials traveled to the main campus in Hattiesburg to unveil the study in that city.