Alums create local jobs

A survey showed that former students have companies around the nation and world.

Vincent Staupe

A University survey released Thursday reveals the economic benefits reaped from University alumni worldwide.

The survey found that from 1939 to 2003, alumni started more than 19,000 companies that employ 1.1 million workers from every state in the U.S. and 63 foreign countries. The companies’ combined annual revenues total an estimated $230 billion.

University spokesman Daniel Wolter said the survey results are important not only to faculty and staff at the state’s only research institution, but also to state policymakers who decide how to allocate funds.

“It confirms what we’ve been saying over the years – that we are a significant economic engine for the state,” Wolter said.

In Minnesota alone, alumni have founded around 10,000 companies, which employ a half-million workers and generate an estimated $100 billion in annual revenues, the survey said.

Applied economics professor Phil Pardey said the University’s research creates “spin-off” ideas, which eventually become companies that benefit the local community.

Pardey also stressed how locally based companies, many of which were created by University alumni, have helped Minnesota become a key player in national and worldwide economies.

“There’s a trade in goods and services across state and international borders, which is becoming an important dimension in the Minnesota economy,” he said.

Susan Rani, who holds a civil engineering degree and an MBA from the Carlson School of Management, started her own engineering firm in 1993, St. Paul-based Rani Engineering, Inc.

Rani said both degrees proved instrumental in her career.

“I personally have received a great education that has enabled me to market and get projects from all over the country,” Rani said.

Rani Engineering recently worked with the University Capital Planning and Project Management office to prepare demolition documents for the grain elevator facilities near the site of the future on-campus football stadium.

“The University has been instrumental in the success of Rani Engineering by awarding prime contracts involving professional engineering services,” Rani said.

The survey also reported that 10 percent of respondents have earned national or international accolades such as academic recognition, Olympic medals, humanitarian awards and military honors.

The landmark study, which the University hails as one of the largest of its kind ever conducted, was produced from more than 50,000 alumni responses received from January to May 2006.

Researchers also used data retrieved from a 2005 Carlson School of Management study and an Institute of Technology survey conducted in 2004.

While the results might be criticized as self-serving, they are not skewed, said Pardey, who considers himself an unbiased third party.

“There was definitely a major effort to try and do this in a very even-handed and statistically sound method as possible,” he said.

The results of the survey are posted online at alumnisurvey.umn.edu. The site offers specific statistics regarding the economic impact of alumni per state, per county and per ZIP code in Minnesota.