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$48-million economic impact provided by Vet College

By Jeffrey Douglas

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 12 - November 9, 1995

Research and extension programs conducted by the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine have provided an estimated $48 million in economic benefit to the Commonwealth of Virginia, according to an economic-impact study recently conducted at Virginia Tech.

The study also indicated that the College's Virginia Tech Campus in Blacksburg and the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg contribute more than 800 jobs and $30 million in gross domestic product in Virginia.

The study, which was conducted by Tech's Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, is the first that objectively quantifies the regional veterinary college's contributions to the commonwealth, according to Dean Peter Eyre.

"The regional college was founded to promote economic development through improved animal health," said Eyre. "The data that have been generated through this study are hard evidence that we are succeeding." The study was designed to evaluate two aspects of the college's economic impact, according to George Norton and Tom Johnson, professors of agricultural economics who supervised graduate student Shukla Kshirsagar on the project.

The economic impact of the college's veterinary research and extension activities was assessed by evaluating a representative sample of an estimated 460 research projects that have been conducted on behalf of both agricultural and companion animals since the early 1980s, according to Norton.

The benefits of individual research projects were calculated by estimating the economic benefits minus the costs of the research and adjusting for the likelihood of adoption of the results. Project benefits for agricultural animals were determined by cost savings from parasite control, disease prevention, and productivity gains. For companion animals, the willingness of customers to pay for a procedure to save the animal was used.

Total benefits for the 82 sampled projects equaled $12 million and research costs were tabulated at $3.9 million, establishing a cost-benefit ratio of approximately 3:1, according to Norton.

"If the remaining 384 projects, which cost $11.6 million, were just as productive as the 82 that were sampled, their benefits would total $36 million, resulting in a total of $48 million for all 466 projects," states the study.

The second calculated the economic benefit the college brings to its immediate communities as a result of job creation and college-related expenditures on goods and services.

Analyzing the direct, indirect, and induced effect of college-related expenditures for goods and services on both the Blacksburg and Leesburg campuses, the researchers determined that 707 jobs were created in the Blacksburg area and 94 jobs were created in Leesburg in 1991-92. College-related expenditures and the economic activity they generate were estimated at $28 million in Blacksburg and $2.6 million in Leesburg for the same time period.

While broad in scope, the study did not attempt to evaluate the economic impact of the regional college's educational and clinical programs, which are believed to be substantial. Almost 900 veterinarians trained by the college are now practicing in communities across Virginia and Maryland, and the college annually trains about 80 more. In terms of clinical activity, the Veterinary Teaching Hospital annually treats approximately 40,000 animals.

Virginia Tech's Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics is currently conducting an economic-impact study designed to calculate those benefits, according to Eyre, and results should be available in 1997.

Founded in 1978, the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine is one of 27 colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States. Jointly supported by Virginia and Maryland through the land-grant universities of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and the University of Maryland at College Park, the College operates campuses in Blacksburg, Leesburg, and College Park, Maryland.