Report: NIST generates $319 million for Colorado economy

BOULDER — A new report from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder has found that the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal research laboratory with operations in Boulder and Gaithersburg, Maryland, added almost $2 billion in combined economic contributions across the two states in the 2016 fiscal year.

NIST’s Boulder campus added $319 million to Colorado’s economy and supported the equivalent of 2,823 jobs during 2016, according to the report. The lab is among the largest employers in the Boulder area, employing a highly educated staff with wages exceeding the national average compared to all industries.

NIST’s Gaithersburg, Maryland, campus’s economic contributions totaled $1.6 billion and added the equivalent of 12,287 jobs in the Maryland economy, as the lab purchased supplies domestically and employees spent their earnings in their communities. The Gaithersburg campus also contributed $137 million in construction spending.

Nationwide, NIST’s impact totaled $2.7 billion in economic activity and 17,068 jobs in fiscal year 2016. The Leeds evaluation expands on prior studies that have shown a 9-to-1 return on investment resulting just from NIST investments in scientific research and development.

The study, which was conducted by the Business Research Division at the Leeds School of Business, highlights NIST as a significant year-over-year contributor to the Colorado and Maryland economies.

“NIST’s operational contributions reflect intensive spending on research activities — largely the people conducting research,” said Brian Lewandowski, associate director of the Business Research Division, in a prepared statement. “Even greater benefits likely accrue from the market impacts of the research and development.”

This study examines the economic effect of NIST’s operating expenses (such as supplies, equipment and utilities), construction investments, contracted research, salaries and benefits. It does not quantify the value or economic impact of NIST’s basic research advancements or licensed, commercialized products that result from this research and technology transfer efforts.

NIST, a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, promotes scientific innovation by advancing measurement science and standards and has produced five Nobel laureates over the past two decades, including CU Boulder affiliates Eric Cornell (2001), Jan Hall (2005) and David Wineland (2012).

The NIST report follows another Leeds School of Business report on all federal research facilities in Colorado. That March 2017 report showed $2.6  billion economic impact from 33 federal research institutions during 2015.