For the first time in its 110-year history, Haskell gauges its value -- in dollars -- to the local economy.
Officials at Haskell Indian Nations University hope the numbers speak for themselves:
- $15.1 million in local earnings.
- $3.2 million in retail trade.
- $5.1 million for local restaurants and bars.
Subtract Haskell from Lawrence and that's what the local economy would lose each year, along with 898 jobs, according to a study commissioned by the Haskell Foundation and released Wednesday.
Haskell officials hope the study will send a message to those in the community who have ignored or dismissed the school: Pay attention.
"Haskell needs Douglas County, and Douglas County needs Haskell," said Bob Martin, president of the federally-funded college for American Indians.
The study, prepared by CERI Inc. of Overland Park, concluded that Haskell generates more than $39.3 million worth of business activity each year in Douglas County.
The study used various federal formulas to calculate the economic impact of Haskell's $10 million annual budget, 242 employees and 900 students. Enrollment was actually about 800 this year.
The study also said construction projects planned at Haskell in the next decade will pump an additional $142.5 million into the local economy, including $44.5 million in wages for 2,315 construction-related jobs.
The report comes at a time when Haskell's relationship with county officials is strained by an ongoing dispute over construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway on the southern edge of Haskell's campus, along 31st Street.
Perhaps Haskell's economic value to the community will mean something to critics who disagree with Haskell's opposition to the road, Martin said.
Haskell also faces what could be an even greater threat than local opponents: Congressional Republicans intent on slashing the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, which funds Haskell.
"We continue to fight for our existence," said Lana Redeye-Rozler, chairperson of the Haskell Board of Regents, which is meeting this week in advance of Haskell's commencement ceremony Friday. "We have to gear up to fight these initiatives."
She said she hoped that local government officials and business leaders would help Haskell in its lobbying effort.