By nearly any measure, the NDSU Research & Technology Park housed at North Dakota State University has been an unquestioned success. Since opening in 2001, RTP has helped foster startup companies, cultivate high-paying jobs, expand the tax base of local and state government—and spur innovation that leads entrepreneurs to create new companies.
But how could all these economic benefits be measured in a way that lends credibility to the RTP and raises awareness of its importance to the state? That was the question leaders from the park and NDSU debated last year before approaching EMSI Consulting.
EMSI’s third-party analysis of the 55-acre park—including its employment and income impact, its construction and fiscal impacts, and its return on investment—was targeted to legislators, decision-makers, and the general public. And the final results, according to RTP Executive Director Tony Grindberg, were ideal.
“I can tell you we were very pleased,” Grindberg said. “[EMSI’s work] was, from our perspective, simply flawless.”
Analysis Shows RTP Has Led to 1,444 Total Jobs
The final report (see here for a PDF version) was released at the beginning of January, on the eve of North Dakota’s legislature convening in Bismarck. The timing was just right to highlight the RTP’s major impacts.
I can tell you were very pleased. [EMSI’s work] was, from our perspective, simply flawless.” — Tony Grindberg, RTP Executive Director
The analysis showed that the RTP has generated 893 new jobs across 19 firms located in the park with salaries averaging $57,000 per year—compared to $41,000 for other North Dakota jobs. EMSI determined those 893 jobs have led to 551 other jobs across the state.
Further, the added jobs and income from RTP generate nearly $11 million for state and local governments through increased taxes. And the companies at the park that trade internationally—with 26 countries in six continents—contributed 10% of the RTP’s revenue.
“The report really helps lend credibility to what we’re doing overall,” said Brenda Wyland, the Park’s associate director. “We’re bringing capital in. We’re exporting products out. Jobs are created. The salaries alone—they’re very high-paying jobs.”
Park’s Growth Has Coincided with State’s
The RTP has seen a major upswing in interest from entrepreneurs and the business community, while also hosting research and technology transfer activities for NDSU, where 2,500 students (of the nearly 14,000 overall) are seeking engineering degrees. The park features seven facilities, including a four-year-old incubator that is quickly running out of space. “We raised a little over $7 million to build an incubator,” Grindberg said, “and some have suggested we should build another one.”
The park’s surge in growth—research at NDSU has nearly tripled from $40 million nine years ago—has coincided with the state’s economy taking off. Much of the growth in research at NDSU is related to electronic materials, Grindberg noted, while a subsidiary of John Deere is a major tenant of the park and several other tech startups are housed there.
As EMSI’s report showed, the RTP has been a key player in North Dakota’s entrepreneurial activity.
“There’s a method to the madness, so to speak,” said Grindberg, also a state senator. “From a policy standpoint, over the last six or eight years we’ve strengthened the toolkit for entrepreneurial development. We’re an agricultural state; for many years we tried to recruit back-office operations. The economy has weathered the recession nationally, and oil is a big factor in our state with new technologies. We’re now the fourth-largest oil-producing state, which has led to interesting times.”