Local businesses contend with SEMO's summer break

Monday, July 3, 2006

Mike Risch watches it happen every summer. When the university students leave town, they take some of his profits with them.

"June and July are two of our slower months, and it's just been that way historically," said Risch, who co-owns Mollie's Cafe and Bar in downtown Cape Girardeau. "It's emblematic of the impact the university has on our business. It's profound."

So say many area business owners, who acknowledged they hate to see many of Southeast Missouri State University's 8,882 students head home for summer vacation, taking their wallets with them.

Two studies completed by the university's Harrison College of Business faculty and students in 2003 back up the notion. An economic impact study estimated that student spending exceeds $51 million in the Cape Girardeau area during the nine-month academic year. This includes an estimated $2.8 million by students' families when they visit.

And the way the students spend their money each year is diverse. The study claims students spend more than $5 million dining out, $1.8 million on going out to drink alcohol, nearly $82,000 on tattoos and piercings and more than $3 million on rent.

Adding to the economy

"Students add quite a bit to the economy here," said Dr. Bruce Domazlicky, director of the university's Center for Economic and Business Research, who oversaw the studies. "So it only makes sense that when they do go home it will have an impact."

Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce president and CEO John Mehner said the student contribution to the economy is huge. Having said that, however, he said the community does not solely rely on students.

"We don't live and die by the students," Mehner said. "When the university is not in session, the streets don't dry up and blow away. The bottom line is this: Cape is big enough to weather it when they are not here, but they're obviously a benefit when they are here."

Some businesses do what they can to bring more people through their doors throughout the summer to compensate for the loss in student dollars. At Burrito-Ville in Cape Girardeau, manager Loretta King said they increase their specials, advertise more and hope word of mouth increases.

"You just sort of do the best you can," said King, who estimated a 25 percent reduction in sales during the summer.

It's just the way business has to be done in a university town like Cape Girardeau, said Schnucks manager Dennis Marchi.

"In a perfect utopia, they'd stay all year around," he said. "But they don't, so you adjust."


335-6611, extension 137

Where do students spend their money?

A 2003 study by Southeast Missouri State University estimated that students spend more than $51 million during the nine-month school year. On what? Here are a few examples:

* Eating out, $5.3 million

* Fuel, $4.3 million

* Renting movies, $538,000

* Tanning, $315,000

* Computers, $1.2 million

* Hair care, $963,000

* Shoes, $825,000

* Cell phone, $1.8 million

SOURCE: Economic Impact Survey, Harrison College of Business

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