Remarks to the Carroll County Board of Commissioners
May 6, 2008 -
Good Afternoon Chairman Chappell and Commissioners. My name is Dr. Andy Leavitt and I am serving as the interim vice president for university advancement at the University of West Georgia. With me today is Mr. Jim Sutherland, our vice president for business and finance.
I am grateful for the opportunity to come before you and make the case that investing in the future of the University of West Georgia will pay huge dividends in the continued economic development of Carroll County.
The Board of Regents has designated the University of West Georgia as one of the four Robust Tier Doctoral Comprehensive Universities. Under the leadership of President Beheruz Sethna, we are building a destination university that will do its share of meeting the needs of the state’s anticipated increase of approximately 100,000 new students to the system by 2020. Our area will gain tremendously from such an influx of good students.
The University of West Georgia is taking another important step toward its development as a comprehensive regional university. Led by a group of visionary friends and through other important partnerships, we are in the final design phase on a $29 million Athletic Complex consisting of a 9,000 seat football stadium, a women’s field house, soccer, and softball facility, an athletic administration field house, and practice fields located on our new Northwest Campus. In time, this new athletics complex will be accompanied by other facilities, programs, and students, staff, and faculty. Through private fundraising and a student fee enthusiastically endorsed by the Student Government Association, we have currently $24 million in the project budget. The cost of the fully built athletic complex will be $29 million. We are renewing our efforts and working hard to raise the final $5 million to put us over the top on this project. We would welcome new partners in this effort. Once completed, these facilities will serve more than athletics. They will serve the idea that this university will begin to stand up and take its place amongst the other great institutions in the South as it enters into its second century.
The economic impact on our community and region will be immediate and profound. Building these facilities now will help attract additional excellent students, potentially driving our enrollment from the current 10,600 students to over 15,000 students. We are expected to cross the 11,000 student mark next fall. Once this enrollment goal is achieved, the institution desires to move from NCAA Division II status to NCAA Division I (Division I-AA in football) and play against such teams as The Citadel, Furman, Appalachian State, and Georgia Southern to name a few. If you are known by the company you keep, our institutional reputation and recognition will surely increase as millions of potential students (through television) are introduced to West Georgia through athletics. This awareness will then drive both enrollment of students and reputation of our university.
More students will stay in town on the weekends. We are grateful to Carroll County for creating the conditions for substantial job growth for our students. With a combination of good jobs and a robust student life, students are choosing to remain on campus on the weekends, thus erasing our long held label of “suitcase college”. Alumni from the surrounding areas and Atlanta will have additional reasons to spend time on campus and in the surrounding community. Atlanta-based alumni from our competitor’s institutions will also come.
The profound impact will come as we grow the institution in numbers, mission, and scope. Adding more students, faculty, and staff will significantly increase the economic presence of UWG in this region. According to the 2006 study from the Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education, the University of West Georgia contributes $220.3 million to the state of Georgia and the west Georgia region. Imagine the economic impact that would result in a 50% increase in student enrollment. With a growing student enrollment, the University will continue to hire additional faculty and staff into good paying jobs that will add to the tax base of Carroll County.
The athletics complex will serve as the anchor facility for our new northwest campus. The land serves us by allowing physical expansion of the campus beyond what is possible at any other institution north of Macon, GA. There simply is not space for major expansion for our sister institutions such as Georgia Tech, University of Georgia, Georgia State, and Kennesaw State University. This gives us a tremendous advantage when the State looks for expansion opportunities.
In closing, I want to thank you very much for inviting me to speak before the commission. I hope you will agree that any support of the athletic complex and the University of West Georgia will be a valued investment in the future of Carroll County. The University has high aspirations for the future that include expanded doctorate programs and even a medical school. In order to accomplish all of this, we need the help of Carroll County and all of our friends.