NIU contributes $700M to ‘Region’s Prosperity’

By Eli Gehn

A June 15 report showed that NIU has had a total impact of nearly $700 million on DeKalb and the surrounding area.

“NIU and Our Regions Prosperity” is a study completed by NIU’s Center for Governmental Studies that looks at the economic impact the university has on communities surrounding the campus. Based on this report, another report titled “NIU and DeKalb County’s Prosperity” was created to focus on the university’s impact within DeKalb County.

NIU President John Peters said he requested the study to be updated for the first time in about 10 years. The study looks at direct and indirect impacts on the local economy surrounding campus.

DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen acknowleged NIU’s impact on the community.

“Having NIU here is the single most important economic engine we have here in the community,” Povlsen said.

Povlsen added that NIU and DeKalb have an mutual respect for each other.

“I think the relationship that we’ve had and continue to have is a very positive one because I think [NIU and DeKalb] see the importance of each others’ entities,” Povlsen said.

NIU has been a vital source for the city of DeKalb and its economy, especially in the business sense, said Paul Borek, executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC)

“NIU has a significant impact in terms of wages and salaries, of employees, and the purchase of goods and services through its operations,” Borek said.

The DCEDC targeted two strategic goal plans for 2011, and Borek said he expects NIU to help achieve these goals.

According to, the first goal focuses on attracting new business and industry that capitalizes on distinct advantages and strengths of DeKalb County.

“NIU is supportive of our business attraction efforts,” Borek said. “NIU supports the local business community by educating and training students to serve in internships, and graduates to fill professional positions in DeKalb County area firms. That contribution of service is valuable for existing businesses and it’s valuable for attracting new companies.”

The other goal focuses on providing leadership and support for workforce development initiatives, according to the DCEDC website.

Borek said NIU’s education and training of the students “contributes to the development of a solid human resource base to support current and future industries.”

President Peters said NIU is currently in the works of providing broadband technology not just for the DeKalb area, but the Chicago area outside of Cook County as well.

“We’ve got several grants totaling over $100 million to help build this broadband [network] in Northern Illinois outside of Cook County, and it has the potential to link up with fiber [optic networks],” said Peters.

Peters said NIU is putting together a group of application experts from the university along with other experts in the region from public schools, government agencies, and businesses that will create teams of people who can put applications together for companies that want to move in [to the region].

“I think [broadband technology] is what businesses look at,” Povlsen said. “Broadband is essential if we’re going to grow as a community,”

Peters said the technology will benefit the rural clinics by linking them to larger hospitals, and linking these clinics together can lead to having access to world-class medicine as well as cost effective.

“NIU can really make a difference in the short term with this approach,” Peters said.