In the midst of a recession that has plagued the national economy, Ann Arbor and other Big Ten college towns have fared better than the states they inhabit by creating collaborative projects between the towns and the states’ flagship universities.

But despite these efforts, Big Ten towns have still been affected — though not as severely — by the recent economic downturn. In 2003, Ann Arbor ranked number one in a study of the Big Ten college towns’ per capita GDP published in December 2009 by The Center for Michigan — an Ann Arbor-based non-profit think-tank. But in 2008, Ann Arbor fell to the number four spot.

In the same study, Minneapolis ranked first in 2008, a jump from its number two spot in 2003. Columbus, Ohio was ranked fifth both years, while State College, Pennsylvania saw a slight uptick from 2003 to 2008, moving from number 10 to number nine.

Though Ann Arbor has been affected by the national economic downturn, Kyle Mazurek, vice president of government affairs at the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce, said the city has managed to rise above the recession by working with the University to strengthen the town’s economy.

“(The University) is a substantial economic engine in our community that we’re very fortunate to have,” Mazurek said. “I think that all communities across the state are suffering to one degree or another, but I think part of the reason that Ann Arbor has been able to weather the storm to a certain extent is because we have (the University) here to help prop us up.”

Mazurek noted that collaborative programs between the city of Ann Arbor and the University as well as efforts to commercialize the “top notch research that is generated at the University” are crucial in helping the city’s and the state’s economies thrive.

He added that being a college town is also something that sets Ann Arbor apart from other cities in the state.

“Not only do you have a really great University that attracts folks from all around, but you’ve got, again, a good urban setting that they want to live in,” Mazurek said.

Ann Arbor’s drop from the number one to the number four spot in the per capita GDP ranking is evident in the financial situations of some local businesses.

Bill Loy, owner of Campus Student Bike Shop on Maynard Street — which has been in business for over 40 years — said he has recently seen a drastic decrease in sales that has forced him to cut costs and reduce the number of employees.

“The economy is just way down,” Loy said. “The sales on new bikes, used bikes and repairs are all way down. It’s the lowest it’s ever been in the last 40 years in my opinion.”

Similarly, Maurizio Grillo, co-owner of New York Pizza Depot, said in an interview that his business has been struggling in the faltering economy. Last April, the South University Avenue NYPD location closed its doors to allow the business to focus its resources more on its other locations, which include its East William Street spot.

“If the economy was great, I would’ve never left,” Grillo told The Michigan Daily last April. “But faced with the harsh reality, we thought it was the best thing to do.”

In a recent interview, Grillo noted that NYPD only uses fresh ingredients for its food, but that the price of these products has skyrocketed as the economy has plummeted. He said this has made it difficult to try to appease the student body, as the business hasn’t been able to lower prices recently.

“We are trying our best,” Grillo said.

Just as the University of Michigan provides economic opportunities for the city of Ann Arbor, city officials from Minneapolis, which ranked number one for Big Ten towns in the 2008 report, said the city’s resilient economy can, in part, be attributed to the connections made between the University of Minnesota and the larger community.

Manager of Business Development for the City of Minneapolis Kristin Guild said she thinks the University of Minnesota is an important part of the city’s economic dynamic, as it provides many jobs in the research sector.

Phil Park, business incubation manager of the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County, said that Pennsylvania State University has “a huge impact” in terms of the city of State College’s economy, since it’s its largest employer.

Park said in the past, the city has failed to establish a close working relationship with the university but said that this is something it has been trying to improve in recent years.

“We don’t really have a strong collaboration with the university,” Park said. “We’re working on that now as a recruitment effort. We are undergoing the initial phase of collaborating for the recruitment of businesses that are in the industry cluster of research and development, technology, chromotogoly and life science — areas that Penn State is very strong on.”

Bill LaFayette, vice president of economic analysis at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, wrote in an e-mail interview that the city’s economy has remained relatively stable over the past several years, due, to a certain extent, to the presence of Ohio State University.

LaFayette wrote that OSU plays a large role in establishing competition between its industries, including transportation, entertainment and tourism, which helps the city grow economically.

“The region has a clear understanding of the driver industries of our regional economy — those that help our region to grow and thrive,” he wrote. “These include transportation and logistics, business and financial services, entertainment and tourism, and segments of the manufacturing sector. We have initiatives to enhance the competiveness of each of those; OSU is one of our most important partners in these initiatives.”

LaFayette also said Columbus’s Attract and Retain program, which works to connect students with local employers through internship opportunities during their college careers to help them network and find jobs after graduation, is a major asset, which helps the city retain OSU students after graduation.

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