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New study shows Corvallis university's impact in city

When Portlanders think about state universities in their city, Portland State University naturally comes to mind. The University of Oregon might also because of its growing presence in Old Town.

But they might also want to think about Oregon State University. According to a new study by the ECONorthwest consulting firm, the Corvallis university had a statewide economic impact of nearly $2 billion in 2011 - and much of that was in the Portland area.

OSU President Edward Ray was in town last week to discuss the findings of the study, which his university commissioned. Among other appearances, Ray delivered a State of the University address to the OSU Alumni Association at the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland. At that time, Ray said OSU has the largest economic impact of any four-year university in Oregon.

Speaking to the Portland Tribune, Ray said he was initially surprised by the disproportionate local economic impact, but then realized that many OSU programs have a Portland connection.

At first glance, OSU may not seem to be a good fit for Portland. The university is perhaps best known as an agricultural-oriented school. But Ray says OSU in fact offers degrees in many different fields, including those involved in sustainable development, a top Portland priority.

'We have so many different programs, they end up touching a lot of lives,' Ray said.

Among other programs, the OSU College of Pharmacy offers courses in the Oregon Health and Science University's Health and Healing Center in South Waterfront. The college will expand its offering with new research facility in the Collaborative Life Sciences Building currently being built by OHSU and the Oregon University System in South Waterfront.

In addition, the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine partners with the Oregon Humane Society to treat sick and injured animals at its Portland facilities, assisting in 800 needed surgeries a year. The university also has a Food Innovation Center in Portland that helps new and existing companies develop their offerings. And maintains an extension office in PSU's Institute of Metropolitan Studies.

Beyond that, many more than 40,000 OSU alumni live and work in the Portland area. Some work in fields specifically targeted for growth in the city's five-year Economic Development Strategy, such as apparel and advanced manufacturing.

According to Ray, OSU's Strategic Plan specifically calls for helping to improve the quality of life in Portland. 'Oregon State recognizes the importance of helping foster an improved economy and enhanced quality of life throughout the greater Portland area,' it reads.

Ray said OSU is actively seeking to partner with other public bodies and private businesses in the Portland area to help achieve this goal.

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