NC bonds promise big return for UNC Charlotte and region

Mar 7, 2016 | Economic Development

Short video explains the critical need for UNC Charlotte’s science programs.

If voters OK $2 billion in statewide bonds on the March 15 ballot, UNC Charlotte will get a much needed new science building. Our region could also gain through higher-paying jobs, new businesses and higher tax revenues.

The Connect NC bonds include $1.33 billion for higher education statewide and, locally, $90 million for a science building at UNC Charlotte, the state’s fastest growing university. Gov. Pat McCrory and the Legislature strongly back the bonds, with good reason: the return on higher-education investment to NC workers, taxpayers and companies was a staggering $17 billion in 2012-13 alone.

The economic impact of UNC Charlotte and its graduates on the Charlotte region is equally impressive: $2.1 billion in just the 2012-13 fiscal year, according to a study by CareerBuilder’s research arm, Emsi. Putting that another way, every $1 of taxpayer investment in UNC Charlotte generates a 14.8% return, the Emsi study found.

“UNC Charlotte provides an indispensable value to our region,” says UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip L. Dubois. “Higher education is a key economic driver in the Charlotte region.”

Big returns from previous education bonds

The Connect NC $2 billion bond package for infrastructure improvements is the first statewide bond issue since 2000. That $3.1 billion bond package, totally devoted to higher education, passed with 70% voter approval. A 2010 review credits the 2000 bond package with creating or saving more than 118,000 jobs.

Sixteen years and 2 million more NC residents later, the Legislature is again seeking voter OK for statewide bonds. The Connect NC $2 billion bond package includes money for several needs, including parks, water-treatment facilities and $350 million for the state’s community colleges.

The $980 million for the UNC university system is heavily focused on the sciences, technology, engineering and math – considered the key fields for global economic competitiveness.

New bonds will keep UNC Charlotte growing

The Connect NC bond package would allow the university to replace its aging and overcrowded Burson Building, erected in 1985 when enrollment barely topped 11,000. UNC Charlotte today has 28,000 students including 5,200 graduate students. Half of current students with declared majors are in science, technology, engineering and math programs.

Current lab space is inadequate to support the undergraduate and graduate teaching programs alongside the university’s research programs, university leaders say. The new building would provide classrooms and undergraduate teaching laboratories and graduate research space for students in physics, chemistry and biology.

Science grads helping fuel our region’s economic growth

Graduates from UNC Charlotte’s strong and growing science and math programs are critical to hundreds of area businesses and essential for recruiters hoping to attract more high-paying companies in key growth fields including:

  • Health and life sciences – More than 10,000 people work in these fields in the Charlotte region, which has the largest concentration of medical-device manufacturers in the Carolinas, the $1 billion NC Research Campus in Kannapolis, and the third largest healthcare system in the U.S., Carolinas HealthCare System.
  • Aerospace – Over 140 aerospace suppliers including BAE Systems, Curtiss-Wright Controls and Michelin employ over 20,000 workers in the design and manufacture of high-tech products ranging from composites and metals to engine systems and control systems.
  • Energy and environment – Charlotte’s emergence as a national energy hub has strong ties to both the UNC Charlotte EPIC energy center and three companies with major facilities in University Research Park: Duke Energy; the energy-focused engineering company Areva; and EPRI, one of the nation’s leading energy research companies.

Learn more about Connect NC bonds

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