Southern Oregon University may be facing challenges that have led to cutbacks in some areas and the elimination of programs and faculty, but the investment the state is making in the university's buildings makes it clear SOU will continue to be a major component of Ashland's economy for years to come.
In all, projects beginning in 2010 and continuing well into next year total $132 million, not all of it state money. Some of the funding comes from student fees and some from a private company investing in new dormitories it is leasing and managing. State funding totals about $47 million. From a long-overdue renovation of the science building to the reconstruction of McNeal Pavilion and the remodeling of the theater building, the work makes SOU an even more attractive place to attend college.
Besides enriching the culture of the area with music, theater, art, academics and athletics, the university is an economic engine, with more than 6,000 students living and spending money in the community. In addition, the university is the largest employer in Ashland, with 750 employees.
When major construction is under way, that employment footprint grows even larger. From 2010 to 2013, for example, about 75 percent of the $50 million in projects went to local contractors. That means SOU provided even more local jobs than usual.
The next time you hear someone say, "government doesn't create jobs," you could point to those construction jobs as an example to the contrary.