Carlson survey shows alumni add Minnesota jobs and cash

The survey was borne of interest on how graduates affect the Minnesota economy.

by Derrick Biney

The Carlson School of Management is producing graduates that are creating business and providing jobs for Minnesotans.

Two weeks ago, the Carlson School released a survey of the economic impact its graduates have on Minnesota.

The survey comes as the school seeks $26.6 million from the state to build a new $39.9 million facility to increase undergraduate enrollment by 50 percent, which Gov. Tim Pawlenty has supported.

Of the school’s 37,000 reachable alumni, 9,105 responded to the survey, which Carlson School conducted in August and September.

The findings showed Carlson School alumni have founded more than 1,800 Minnesota-based businesses, which employ more than 110,000 people and generate annual revenue of $21.2 billion.

That amount corresponds with the entirety of revenues generated by the state’s manufacturing industry. The employee base is about the same as that of the combined legal, accounting, architectural and technological industries in Minnesota, according to the Carlson School’s Web site.

Robert Ruckert, associate dean of undergraduate programs, said the Carlson School is significant to the health and well-being of the state.

The survey was borne of the curiosity of some faculty members and staff members, Ruckert said, to see the impact Carlson School graduates have on the state.

“For every dollar invested (into Carlson School) there is a very handsome return for the state,” he said.

He said the survey reflects the school’s ability to train people to become leaders.

Carlson School alumnus Gary Lowenthal said he and other alumni receive requests for surveys all the time. He said he did not take the survey that seriously until he saw the results of its findings.

Lowenthal said the survey highlights the entrepreneurship efforts of fellow graduates.

Lowenthal graduated in 1980 with a degree in accounting and in 1983 acquired a master’s degree in business taxation. His education empowered him to found Viper Motorcycle Company, where he is currently the executive vice president and chief financial officer, he said.

Alumnus Eric Strauss founded three businesses: Crazy Carrot Juice Bar, City Date Connection and EntrepreneursForHire. The 1995 Carlson School graduate is a business consultant for IBM.

Lowenthal and Strauss both said that while in college they were involved in business and nonbusiness student organizations that gave them experiences that prepared them for real life and the business world.

Ruckert said the survey’s findings aren’t that surprising given that some Carlson School students are starting businesses while still enrolled in school.

Criminal justice senior Laura Conway said she found the survey interesting, but she had mixed feelings about how the results could be interpreted.

She said success isn’t necessarily determined by ability or aptitude, but often is subject to social connections and personality.

Last April the Institute of Technology preceded the Carlson School in doing an alumni survey as evidence of the University’s return on investment for Minnesotans. Mostafa Kaveh, associate dean for research and planning, said the alumni were pleased with the survey results.

The IT alumni survey showed approximately 2,600 alumni-founded active companies in Minnesota, employing more than 175,000 people and generating approximately $46 billion in annual revenue.