CORNER BROOK — The term “college town” has been tossed about for years, but Corner Brook’s post-secondary institutions have set about making an even more concerted effort to build on the economic generator their sector represents.
The Campus City Committee is a partnership of Grenfell Campus, Memorial University, the College of the North Atlantic, Academy Canada and the City of Corner Brook.
The committee recently engaged the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to conduct a study into the economic impact the post-secondary education sector has on Corner Brook and the surrounding area and what it could mean if more students could be attracted to study here.
The details of that study were presented during a luncheon hosted by the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade Wednesday. Among the highlights were the fact that post-secondary student-related spending poured nearly $13 million into the local economy in 2010 and 2011.
During that same time frame, local post-secondary institutions themselves contributed $38.5 million, including the employment of 497 employees.
The study also indicated that adding an additional 100 post-secondary students would generate a further $500,000 in annual spending, not including money spent by those people who would be expected to come visit students from out of town.
Mary Bluechardt, vice-president of Grenfell Campus, said the focus is on putting Corner Brook on the global map so post-secondary students consider it when deciding where to study. She urged the business community to get behind the initiative since they will benefit from an increase in customer flow and more people being available to come work for them.
“We are excited about this process and we want you to be a part of it,” she told those attending the luncheon. “We are looking for the business community and the broader community to get behind this exciting initiative and help us make Corner Brook the best city in this province, in this country and around the world for students to call their home.”
Benefits to business
Glen Keeling, a student from Nova Scotia who will be working in Corner Brook before entering his final year of environmental studies at Grenfell, spoke about one way businesses can benefit from the student population. The International Student Identity Card given freely to post-secondary students is a way for businesses to advertise at no cost by signing up and offering student discounts.
Students holding these cards can access a list of participating businesses and will likely go to those businesses to save themselves some money, said Keeling.
“You come from away, speaking from experience, and you don’t know where to simply go to get a haircut or buy a pair of pants,” he said. “Students are going to look at this network and they will see the discounts that are available and they will go to those destinations, creating a brand loyalty that will last for as long as we are around.”
Part of the plan includes establishing an annual event to bring together students, the institutions, businesses and the community in general. The first one, a three-day fall orientation event dubbed Campus City Connect, will happen Sept. 5-7.
The opening night will feature a business community showcase and student job fair at Margaret Bowater Park. That will be followed by a drive-in movie night, using an inflatable movie screen that will be set up in the Pepsi Centre parking lot.
The third night will involve a community concert in the main arena of the Pepsi Centre. The performers have already been lined up and will include Andrew James O’Brien, The Navigators and Sherman Downey and the Silver Lining.
Charles Pender, director of the Grenfell Secretariat, said there are numerous opportunities for partnerships, both economic and cultural, that will help Corner Brook tap into the renewable resource of post-secondary students in western Newfoundland and beyond.
“We want to tell students that we want them here, that we want to keep them here, that they are welcome here and that we appreciate them, not only for the money that they spend, but for everything else that they bring and contribute to our community,” said Pender.