Office of External Affairs

Economic Impact Report FAQ

Q. What is an Economic Impact Report?

Economic impact begins when an organization spends money. Economic impact studies measure the direct economic impact of an organization’s spending plus additional indirect spending in the economy as a result of direct spending. Economic impact has nothing to do with dollars collected by institutions, their profitability or even their sustainability, since all operating organizations have a positive economic impact when they spend money and attract spending from outside sources. Total economic impact measures the dollars that are generated within Washington State due to the presence of the University of Washington. This includes not only spending on goods and services with a variety of vendors within the state, and the spending of its staff and visitors, but also the business volume generated by businesses within Washington that benefit from UW’s spending. It is important to remember that not all dollars spent by a university remain in its home state. Dollars that “leak” out of the state in the form of purchases from out-of-state vendors are not included in the university’s economic impact on the state.

The total economic impact includes the “multiplier” of spending from companies that do business with UW. Support businesses may include lodging establishments, restaurants, construction firms, vendors, temporary agencies, etc. Spending multipliers attempt to estimate the ripple effect in the state economy where the spending occurs. For example: Spending by a UW campus with local vendors provides these vendors with additional dollars that they re-spend in the local economy, causing a “multiplier effect.”

Q. What multipliers were used in this study?

Tripp Umbach uses economic impact (also referred to as business volume impact) multipliers recommended by the American Council on Education. The indirect impacts represent the re-spending which takes place in the study areas. The multipliers used in this study are based upon research conducted by Caffrey and Isaacs, and are appropriate for major research universities. Economic Impact Multipliers: State business volume multiplier = 2.3 and County business volume multiplier = 1.6. The multipliers utilized in this study are standard multipliers for public research universities in the United States with the state multiplier being 2.3 for the statewide business volume impact and 2.5 for the employment impact.

Q. What is the timeline for this project? When did it start? When will it finish?

The project began with the planning phase in the fall of 2009. The development and extensive interviews for the report were completed in December 2009. The implementation and data collection was completed in May 2010. The report was released and made publically available in July 2010.

Q. How was this project funded?

This project was commissioned by the offices of External Affairs and the UW Center for Commercialization (C4C). The UW conducted a formal, public Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit responses from consultants and vendors in order to provide an objective, third party, non-partisian collection and report-out of revenue and employment data. The UW selected and hired a third party, economic research firm, Tripp Umbach, to conduct the comprehensive assessment of the UW’s economic impact on the city of Seattle, the Puget Sound region and the state of Washington.

Q. Who is participating in the Economic Impact Report?

The Economic Impact project is overseen by the offices of External Affairs. The content and data collection was guided by a university-wide collaboration of parties including working, advisor and academic groups. These groups are multi-faceted and represent the varied interests and voices found in and around the university. Key leadership, faculty, staff, alumni, and regional thought leaders contributed time through interviews and directly supplied sensitive data to help guide this project and insure accuracy.

Students and alumni had the opportunity to participate through an online survey that was emailed to a random sampling of students and alumni on all three campuses.

Q. Why did the UW commission Tripp Umbach to complete this report?

The UW felt strongly that in order to complete a non-biased report which would support all units, schools and campuses it was important to open a public Request for Proposal (RFP) process. Vendor selection required a comprehensive vetting process conducted by a team of faculty and administrative advisors. Tripp Umbach was selected based upon their background and responses to the UW’s RFP.

Tripp Umbach is a national leader in providing economic impact analysis to leading health care organizations, universities and academic medical centers. They have completed more than 150 economic impact studies over the past 20 years for clients such as The Pennsylvania State University, The Ohio State University, Mayo Clinic Rochester, Cleveland Clinic, University of Florida Sands HealthCare, the University of North Carolina Hospitals, the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and the Ohio State University Medical Center.

Tripp Umbach recently finished the fourth national study of all 125 medical schools and 400 teaching hospital affiliates for the Association of American Medical Colleges. Tripp Umbach has completed statewide studies for multiple institutions in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Q. Why did the UW do this report now?

It has been over 15 years since UW’s last economic impact report. The findings from that report were extremely helpful not only from an informative perspective, but also to help convey relevant facts about the university as an integral part of the community and state’s fabric. Logically, enough time has passed and most large public universities conduct impact reports approximately 5-10 years. Other research institutions and universities like the University of North Carolina, University of Minnesota, University of California, Los Angeles and University of Southern California have also conducted impact studies in the past 5 years in order to help them better understand their partnerships in the successes of their respective city, regional and state impacts as well as research and medical impact on their communities. Other large organizations like Microsoft and the Washington Technology Alliance have recently released reports for similar reasons.

Q. What are the objectives of this project?

The objective of this initiative is to enhance the understanding of UW’s impact on Washington by:

Quantifying the economic and societal impacts of the UW on the city, region and state of Washington.
Articulating the financial and humanistic benefits of a research institution and its partnership with the state’s success as an innovative, global leader.
Establishing the impacts of the UW as a national and global research university.

Q. How do I find out more?

For more details about the project, please visit the External Affairs Web site at or contact:

  • Randy Hodgins, Vice President, External Affairs at for programmatic questions.
  • Norm Arkans, Associate Vice President, Media Relations, for media related questions.
  • Dawn Weyant, Senior Marketing Manager, for strategic or detailed questions.