The average student spends more than $11,000 per year while attending Drake University, pumping more than $55 million into the local economy, according to a new study examining the university’s impact on the area economy. 

The report, completed by Impact DataSource of Austin, Texas, found that the private college is responsible for $413 million in annual consumer spending in the Des Moines metropolitan area. 

While Drake President Marty Martin has sights on building up the neighborhood surrounding the university, he said the report identifies an already strong foundation of economic ties between Drake and Des Moines. 

“This is just another way to tell the Drake story,” Marty Martin told the Register Thursday. “It really makes the case that this is an institution that provides a great advantage to central Iowa.”

Some highlights of the report included:

  • Of 73,903 living alumni, 38 percent live in Iowa and 28 percent live in central Iowa. 
  • The 15,000 alumni working in central Iowa contribute $2 billion annually to the regional economy
  • The university’s 1,090 faculty and staff members earn nearly $80,000 on average in annual salary and benefits.
  • Visitors spend nearly $15 million annually attending the Drake Relays, university athletic events and other events on campus.
  • While 70 percent of Drake’s students hail from out-of-state, about half of current graduates remain in Iowa.

Still, the university is committed to improving the “symbiotic relationship” between the school and its surrounding neighborhood, Martin said.  Drake sits in the middle of a transitional part of the city: Home values are climbing and young people are moving in south and west of the campus, data show, while the areas east and north remain plagued with blight and low home values, despite longstanding revitalization efforts.

But Martin believes the April announcement of a $56 million development across from campus on University Avenue will help. Drake agreed to sell the land there to Des Moines-based Nelson Construction and Development, which plans a 137-room hotel, a 110-unit apartment complex, 14 townhouses and six to eight restaurants and retailers.

The president said the project will equally benefit Drake’s 5,000 students and those living in the community around them.  

“The purpose of that is the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats,” Martin said.

On the other end of campus, the university will host a new location for the Boys and Girls Club of Central Iowa, serving more than 200 students from the surrounding…