Duke's Economic Impact

April 1, 2008
Town-gown symbiosis: intertwined economies


Town-gown symbiosis: intertwined economies. Chris Hildreth

Duke has a $3.4 billion annual economic impact on the city and county of Durham, according to a recent study. The study, conducted biennially by Duke's Office of Public Affairs, with help from such local organizations as the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce and the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau, tabulated the total amount of spending in Durham by the university and its health system for goods and services, the amount of money spent locally by students and visitors, and the salaries and benefits received by Duke employees who are Durham residents.

The latest figures, which cover fiscal year 2006-07, show an increase from $3.2 billion two years ago and are 62 percent higher than the economic impact of $1.9 billion when the study was first conducted ten years ago.

The final figure was determined using a standard formula developed by economists to estimate the overall impact of money spent in a community. This approach assumes that every dollar spent in a community changes hands a number of times within that community before it leaves. In conducting the analysis, researchers took a conservative stance, assuming that each dollar of the $1.7 billion spent by Duke over the course of the year changed hands only once.

The largest portion of Duke's economic impact is employment related. As the county's top employer, the university employed 19,755 Durham residents, with salaries and benefits totaling $931 million. (Just under half of Duke's work force lives in Durham.) The next largest portion, $426.6 million, comes from spending by Duke students and visitors while in Durham.

Another $279 million was spent by Duke in purchasing goods and services in Durham, including more than 698 individual Durham companies that do business with the university totaling $10,000 or more. An additional $77.3 million comes in the form of donations to the community, including uncompensated medical care and support for Durham County Emergency Medical Services and the Lincoln Community Health Center.

The report found that about 15 percent of Durham's work force is employed by Duke and that, on average, these salaried workers were paid $74,662; hourly workers were paid $42,436.

"In my more than thirty years in Durham, I have always appreciated that Duke University is an important economic engine for Durham," says Phail Wynn, who was president of Durham Technical Community College before becoming Duke's vice president for Durham and Regional Affairs last year. "During the past few months, as I have been transitioning into my new position at Duke, I have come to appreciate more fully the extent of Duke's many partnerships with Durham and how much we all benefit economically and culturally from Duke's presence."