Dakota County Technical College accounts for more than 1,500 jobs while generating more than $160 million in annual economic activity in the region, according to a study from the Wilder Foundation.

The study, released last week, is part of a larger statewide study of the economic impact of the 31 institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, which produce an annual economic impact of more than $8 billion, according to Wilder.

The study found that the statewide system, which serves 110,000 students and awards 13,600 degrees each year, generates about $490 million in tax revenues.

“It really shows the importance of the institutions,” said Jose Diaz, one of the two Wilder researchers on the project, which focused on the 2011 fiscal year. “The impact on the communities is significant.”

One of the Dakota Tech’s biggest impacts is in tax revenue, generating more about $15 million a year for state and local governments.

The study found that the college contributes $162 million in economic activity each year, accounting for 1,554 jobs. That measures things that are a result of direct spending by the college, such as salaries and purchases from suppliers, and by the students on such things as rent, food and beverages. There is also the indirect spending that this generates from those businesses, known as the multiplier effect, whereby they spend more with their suppliers.

“While we are about education, we’re also about economic development,” said Ronald Thomas, the college’s president. “We do play an important role in our economy.”

A statewide impact

Doug Anderson, the director of communications for the state college system, said these types of economic studies are done periodically to provide lawmakers, businesses, community leaders and residents a sense of how the institutions are doing economically.

Diaz, who helped conduct the last such economic impact study for the state colleges in 2005, said organizations often use the information to seek more money or to justify the money they are getting.

Anderson said the state college system is not specifically targeting legislators, who will vote in coming months on new funding for the organization.

“It’s really for anybody that has a vested interest in the local college or economy,” Anderson said. “Every one of our campuses has an established relationship” with their local economy.

Diaz said this is especially true in more rural areas where the local state college or university is often one of the biggest employers in the area.

“The impact in those counties is significant,” Diaz said. “Their economic regions would suffer without them.”

An added benefit is the increased productivity created when someone graduates from a college with a degree. In 2011, for example, Dakota Tech issued 426 associate degrees. During the course of a 40-year career this will mean about $40 million in additional state income, the study found.

“Dakota County Technical College makes a long-term contribution to the regional economy with every graduating class,” Diaz said.