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Senior Nicole Kozlovsky (left) with Sandra Odorzynski, economics professor

CBEA Helps Local Businesses Thrive

Susan Garot was curious about her nonprofit’s return on investment, or ROI. Executive director of the 47-acre Green Bay Botanical Garden (GBBG), the garden had spent more than $3.5 million on various improvements over the previous five years, and she wondered if those had been profitable investments. Especially because the GBBG was looking at embarking upon another improvement, the addition of a “Grand Garden” directly west of the visitor/education center, which would offer a spacious amphitheater with stage, concession area, classroom space and private gardens. 

When she mentioned this to David Wegge, a St. Norbert political science professor, during a 2014 CEO roundtable discussion sponsored by the Greater Green Bay Chamber, he asked if the 19-year-old nonprofit had ever had an economic impact study done. Garot said no. About six months later, three St. Norbert College students, with assistance from economics professor Sandra Odorzynski, were crunching the numbers for the botanical garden, gratis, through a project being run by the college’s new Center for Business & Economic Analysis, or CBEA.

The CBEA is part of the Donald J. Schneider School of Business & Economics, founded in the fall of 2014. Created by Jamie O’Brien and Marc Schaffer, business administration and economics professors, respectively, the CBEA’s mission is to forge relationships with the northeastern Wisconsin business and nonprofit communities via collaboration, information-sharing and networking. More specifically, the CBEA looks to assist these groups, in part, by offering pro bono consulting services, during which it can loop in its qualified students so they can deepen their knowledge and skills by working on real-world business issues.

The GBBG’s economic impact study was supervised by Sandra Odorzynski, with senior Nicole Kozlovsky, an economics and accounting major, the main student researcher. Seniors Abby Brzezinski and Katie Vanden Avond also participated. For 12 weeks during the 2015 spring semester, the group looked at the botanical garden’s 2014 local and non-local visitor counts, budget and payroll, among other figures. The results of the study showed that, in 2014, the GBBG and its 92,000+ visitors were having a $6 million annual impact on the 11 counties in northeastern Wisconsin  ̶  a figure pretty close to the $7.4 million annual economic impact of the Green Bay Packers’ training camp and family night. (And that $6 million figure was likely a bit low, as 2014’s attendance had dipped due to a harsh winter.) Kozlovsky presented the results of the economic impact study to the botanical garden’s board of directors, and later to a group of donors. 

“Our economic impact was higher than I expected,” says Garot. “We’re just this tiny little gnat compared to the Packers, so it was very impressive to us and to those people we’ve shared the details with.”

Kozlovsky says businesses with a lot of employees typically have more significant economic impacts on communities because employee salaries and benefits constitute the bulk of a company’s operating expenditures. Since the GBBG only has about 26 full- and part-time staff, Garot and others assumed its impact would be modest. What the study highlighted was the fact that the GBBG’s visitor expenditures are quite high: $2.1 million annually, spent on everything from gift shop purchases to gas, restaurant and hotel expenditures. Entry fees provide another $500,000 or so.

Garot was thrilled with the results of the study, and with the work done by Kozlovsky and her team. 

“Most people think there’s no economic impact to a nonprofit,” Garot says. “But all nonprofits have an impact. It’s important for everyone to understand that we do play a role in the financial health and well-being of a community.” 

Have a collaborative partnership in mind? Contact the CBEA team today.

Jan. 28, 2016