UHV's expansion to impact Crossroads economy


June 22, 2010 at 1:22 a.m.

Kevin and Darline Poynter, owners of McDonald's on the Houston Highway will soon see an increase in traffic after the remodeling of UHV Jaguar Hall is completed for the fall semester.  The UHV marquee can be seen across the parking lot, as the drive through business was heavy Monday afternoon June 21, 2010.

Kevin and Darline Poynter, owners of McDonald's on the Houston Highway will soon see an increase in traffic after the remodeling of UHV Jaguar Hall is completed for the fall semester. The UHV marquee can be seen across the parking lot, as the drive through business was heavy Monday afternoon June 21, 2010.

Kevin and Darline Poynter were smart to purchase and rebuild the McDonald's on the Houston Highway in 2007.

The restaurant will be next door to Jaguar Hall, the residence hall for incoming freshmen and sophomores this fall at The University of Houston-Victoria.

It could mean more business.

"When we were building this store, we built it with the expansion in mind," Darline said. "Citizens (Medical Center) was growing, Victoria College was still in talks with UHV for going to a four-year college."

The university's expansion to a four-year university is expected to pump $2.8 billion into the city's economy if UHV's enrollment continues to increase at the same rate it is now, according to a study done by Impact DataSource, an Austin economic consulting and research firm.

Impact DataSource research also shows that by 2024, the expansion will attract about 467 new workers to move into the community, 1,518 new residents into the region, 350 new students into the region's public schools and create 1,772 jobs.

UHV set a goal to recruit 200 underclassmen. So far, 1,351 students have applied, 462 have been accepted and 287 have said they are coming, said Chari Norgard, associate vice president of student success and enrollment management.

Some top counties students are applying from are Harris, Bexar, Fort Bend, Victoria and Hidalgo, according to UHV's website.

UHV and community businesses are preparing for these students to arrive.

The students are coming

The Poynters, who own all five McDonald's in Victoria, had a choice between adding a Playland and a double drive-through. They chose a drive-through to accommodate students.

"We'll be hosting specials and stuff like that," Darline said of the first week the students arrive. "We'll be hiring anywhere between a dozen to 20 more employees, depending on how busy it gets."

They already have Wi-Fi at the restaurant, along with table and video games. Once the students move in, the Poynters plan to keep operating their 24-hour drive-through service, but will also extend their indoor restaurant hours to 2 a.m. and during finals week, stay open until 4 a.m. They currently close their indoor hours at midnight, Darline said.

Also within walking distance of Jaguar Hall is Siesta Restaurant. The eatery is already discussing ways to bring in students for more business.

"We are looking at how we can attract students and their parents when they're in town visiting," said John Trevino, the restaurant's manager. "We are thrilled at what UHV's expansion will do for Siesta and the other businesses on the strip. It will also be a wonderful boost for the Victoria economy."

The university's Academic & Career Services Center is also in the process of creating about 30 new on-campus jobs, said Bethany Bowman, career services specialist.

"Our biggest employer will be Student Solutions, who answer questions from incoming, transfer or current students about financial aid, registration," Bowman said.

The career center has been talking to area businesses about what kinds of part-time jobs and internship opportunities that can be provided to students.

"We're collecting data on both ends, one from employers and also from students," said Eunice Mesa, career services coordinator. "It looks like many students are going to be looking for part-time jobs, and it looks like employers will be wanting to employ some of these students. Many of the area employers are very interested and excited these students are coming in."

Examples of businesses UHV has worked with to employ students with include Buffalo Wild Wings, Coca-Cola Enterprises and Food Bank of the Golden Crescent, Bowman said.

UHV expects to have a part-time job fair in August for students looking for work, Mesa said.

Four-Year Universities

UHV is part of a trend of other Texas universities first established as an upper level university serving junior, senior and graduate-level courses, but then expanded to a four-year university.

Some of the latest universities to became four-year institutions include Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in 1994, Texas A&M International in Laredo in 1995 and University of Texas-Tyler in 1998. Texas A&M-Texarkana, like UHV, will begin adding underclassmen this fall.

UT-Tyler, which has about 6,200 students, saw a 56 percent increase in enrollment from 1999 to 2004 once it became a four-year school, according to a study done by The Perryman Group. The city has about 110,000 residents.

"It's had real positive influence on our local economy," said Tom Mullins, CEO of the Economic Development Council, Inc. in Tyler. "There's been residential development around university, some retail and restaurant development around the university."

UT-Tyler's nursing program graduates between 200 to 300 students every year, Mullins said. About 40 percent of them stay in the region, he said.

Texas A&M-Texarkana, which has about 1,650 students, projects that each student will bring $17,000 per year in economic output, said Bob Bruggeman, the university's marketing and communications manager.

Charles Nickerson, vice-president of economic development in Texarkana, hopes these new underclassmen coming in will stay in the Texarkana area.

"Once you have that full four-year university, hopefully they get the idea that we serve as the educational center, but also create an opportunity where we can keep some of those bright youngsters in the region, where they become members of the community, the chamber, the city," Nickerson said.

A recent Texas A&M- Corpus Christi study showed that for every 1,000 students who attended, an additional $23 million would be brought into the Coastal Bend area. That same number of additional students would bring in 480 new jobs, the study said.

TAMU-CC grew from 5,000 students its first year as four-year university to 9,648 students enrolled in fall 2009.

The average student who goes away to a destination university spends about $15,000, said Randy Vivian, president of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce

Like UT-Tyler or TAMU-CC, Vivian sees similar potential for economic prosperity in Victoria.

"Once we get the freshmen in here settled and start having them in town, I think you'll see some expansion of businesses in town," Vivian said. "As the population grows at the university, we're going to see some things come in that we probably never dreamed of coming here before."

Along with showing economic impact projections, Impact DataSource research also shows with destination universities have reduced crime rates, increased charitable giving of civic life, more social cohesion and appreciation for diversity.

Incoming freshmen may also bring cultural changes to the city, Norgard said.

"A lot of these students coming are very, very young," she said. "They're going to bring with them a lot of enthusiasm, which may culturally change the university. Over time, Victoria will hopefully become in some ways a college town, which I think will be a good thing."



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