Hugh McQuaid Photo
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (Hugh McQuaid Photo)

The University of Connecticut had a $3.4 billion impact on the state’s economy in 2013, according to an economic report paid for by the school and conducted by Pittsburgh-based consulting firm Tripp Umbach.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and UConn President Susan Herbst released the report at a Wednesday press conference held in UConn’s Graduate Business Learning Center in Hartford.

“What this shows is something that many people have probably sensed all along — that UConn is a vital part of Connecticut’s economy,” Herbst said.

Paul Umbach, the firm’s senior principal, said the report tries to quantify the economic activity the state would lose if UConn did not exist. The report concludes that the university has a direct impact of $1.5 billion and an indirect impact of $1.9 billion.

In a per-capita comparison with other states’ flagship universities, “it is an impressive economic impact,” he said. Umbach said UConn “packs a lot of punch” given that the state’s size and geography are similar to metropolitan Houston.

Malloy waived off the comparison

“All right, you can stop now,” he said. “We’re a mid-sized population.”

The governor said it makes sense for the university to have commissioned the nearly $50,000 study.

“It’s important for the people of Connecticut to understand just how vital the University of Connecticut is to economic activity,” he said.

However, Tom Foley, Malloy’s Republican opponent in the November governor’s race, panned the report as political posturing Tuesday before it was released.

In a press release, Foley’s campaign predicted that the report would involve the UConn Foundation, a private entity that supports the university, and Fred Carstensen, director of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis. It was not done by Carstensen and the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis.

“I highly suspect that this press conference tomorrow will affirm my suspicions, that this economic study is highly political. What is going on at UConn and The UConn Foundation doesn’t pass the smell test and it will stop the day I am sworn-in as governor,” Foley said.

Asked about Foley’s statement during the press conference, Malloy said he wanted to answer “nicely.”

“He’s a candidate. Right? He wants to make points. He’s become a cheapshot specialist and my hunch is he’ll never, ever read the report,” he said. “To be very specific, I had nothing to do with it. This was an undertaking by the university.”

Foley’s statement questioned whether the study was commissioned as a “political puff piece” to tout projects Malloy funded during his first term designed to boost the university. Umbach said the study, which uses data from 2013, was conducted too early to assess the impact of those projects. But Malloy defended those projects during the press conference.

“Tom may not understand this but what we’re trying to do is build a Connecticut for the long run. So much of the investments we have announced around the University of Connecticut have not actually taken hold yet. They’re only starting to take hold,” he said.

Hugh McQuaid Photo
UConn President Susan Herbst (Hugh McQuaid Photo)

Malloy and Herbst suggested the goal of the study was aimed primarily at boosting investments in UConn rather than helping Malloy’s campaign.

The governor said he suspected Herbst was “probably going to use this when you approach the legislature in the next budget.”

Herbst agreed.

“We are getting ready to make our case to the legislature for continued investment in the university because we think that investment pays off for all the citizens in the state so beautifully,” she said.

Ben Zimmer, executive director of the Connecticut Policy Institute, a group founded by Foley, said the survey failed to take into account what would happen if the state made the investments they’re making in UConn elsewhere.

“What is missing is any assessment of whether that money is *best* directed to UConn versus another source,” Zimmer said Wednesday. “This isn’t to say that government spending on UConn is misplaced, or is too high.  It is merely to say that the report offers no actual evidence indicating otherwise.”