Economic Impact Report

Investments show dramatic, early results

Five years ago, we took the unusual step of planning a series of investments in the College and the community to ensure both would grow together, in synergy, to create a stronger Central Maine and a stronger Colby. We knew it was important to measure whether our efforts were bearing fruit, so we sought an independent assessment of our investments over the past five years to gauge their impact.

Today, the nature and pace of our investments are having a significant positive effect on the College, Greater Waterville, and across Maine. The investments and partnerships we’ve created have our region countering tough economic headwinds and creating a model for communities on how to navigate them.

This report is the start of ongoing assessment. As investments by Colby and others reshape this community, we look forward to continued analysis of the results.

President David A. Greene

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Cover of economic impact study

Making an impact

Colby has always been an economic driver in the region, and this report indicates that its impact has increased on several measures, from direct contributions to Waterville to the impacts of capital investments and increases in wages and operational spending.

Over the past five years, the College’s operations, investments, and visitor and student spending supported nearly $1.5 billion in economic output across Maine, of which the majority — $1.1 billion — occurred in the Greater Waterville region.

In 2018 alone, Colby’s presence supported $305 million in sales to local businesses, more than 2,500 jobs, $111 million in wages, and generated $8.7 million in income, sales, and property tax revenue for state and local governments.

While some growth over this five-year period would have occurred absent downtown developments, it is evident that the revitalization is making an outsized economic impact, particularly on employment and population growth.

Supporting local jobs

Colby employed roughly 900 people in 2019. The College’s overall spending during that time was $210 million, which flowed through nearly 1,000 Maine vendors, spurred an additional $110 million in regional spending, and supported another 1,600 jobs.

Over the five-year period from 2014 to 2018, employment at Colby increased by 19 percent, wages by 24 percent, total operational spending by 34 percent, and nearly $176 million was invested in Colby’s on-campus facilities and in downtown Waterville.

And over the last five years, Colby has made approximately $1.7 million in payments to the city of Waterville for annual designations, property taxes, and master-planning expenses, with $525,000 in 2018 alone.

Spurring “Brain Gain”

Colby’s investments are making it possible for Waterville to buck demographic trends while also directly addressing the region’s (and Maine’s) most critical problem—the attraction and retention of talented young workers.

Colby is creating a brain gain: about 15 percent of alumni — about 3,700 — work in Maine, and more than 1,600 who came to Colby from out of state have remained here.

As Colby increases its faculty and staff sizes, it is attracting talented workers to Waterville from around Maine and out of state. Colby hired 122 new employees in 2018, 61 of whom came from outside Maine and 33 from outside Central Maine. The median age of these new hires is 35, compared to Maine’s median age of 44.

Growing Community

Even with all these signs of progress — population growth, rising real estate values, external investments, and significant increase in real estate transactions downtown — this is only the beginning.

Colby students and visitors spend locally. From 2014 to 2018, overnight visitors spent $23.6 million and students spent $9 million at off-campus businesses.

In the next few years, as the College becomes more integrated with the downtown and with the completion of key projects such as the redeveloped Lockwood Mills complex, the Lockwood Hotel, the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, improvements through the BUILD grant, and Colby’s athletics center, we expect to see further increases in population and visitors as well that will create a more sustainable economy for the city and an improved tax base.

Highlighted Initiatives and Investments

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