Kenai Peninsula College produces more than just caps, gowns

Posted: Thursday, May 28, 2009

When most people think of Kenai Peninsula College they probably think about courses, diplomas and developing job skills.

When they think about its contribution to the community they'd likely consider what it offers in terms of trained workers.

It's doubtful that anyone would consider what the institution provides the local economy in terms of the people it employs and the money it spends though.

The school recently had the McDowell Group, a research firm based out of Juneau and Anchorage, study just that.

"The Contributions of Kenai Peninsula College," was recently published for the school.

Ask KPC Director Gary Turner to show you the meat of the 27-page report and he'll point you to the bullets on page 2, where the school's impacts within the Kenai Peninsula Borough and statewide are outlined.

The college had direct spending impacts across the state, including within the borough, totaling $11.9 million in fiscal year 2008.

The school's direct spending in that same year within the borough totaled $10.4 million, generating an additional $5.4 million in economic activity.

That means KPC infused the local economy with $15.8 million.

"We are looked at providers of one year and two year certificates," Turner said. "When people look at us they don't think of an economic engine."

He hopes this report will change that.

Marci Zimmerman, the director of administrative services at KPC, is bullish on the school's reputation of buying locally whenever possible, too.

"We always direct it (KPC's procurement) toward our local vendors," she said. "If the service or the commodity exists in our area, we go local."

Turner said the school does business with more than 200 borough providers.

This is the first professional type study of this nature that's been done on the school.

Turner said the drive to do this report started a few years ago. He wanted the communities that host small schools like his to see what type of impact they have.

"It's information that's sorely lacking, and its going to be invaluable to legislators borough elected officials and local elected officials," he said

He thinks the public will take note of the study, as well.

"Why for the public?" he asked. "Well, first of all, it's for them to realize that we are a driver, we have a tremendous impact."

Turner said he's still hopeful that the numbers produced in the report will sink in with lawmakers.

He said the school is reaching a point where its infrastructure is limiting its growth.

"We don't have enough space to put the students, and we're turning students away," he said.

Even if Turner gets funding from the Legislature to construct more classrooms, he still needs the faculty to teach the students.

"I'm being held back because of those two things," he said.

"Hopefully something like this," he said, gesturing to the report, "will give legislators something more to go with and say, yes we need to fund X Y Z for KPC."

Dante Petri can be reached at

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