Since centralizing procurement a decade ago, the University of Maine System has strengthened its purchasing power and positive impact on local Maine businesses and workforce
Orono, Maine — The University of Maine System (UMS) invested more than $630 million directly into the Maine economy last fiscal year through payroll and purchasing, a new analysis shows.
UMS is among the state’s largest employers and in FY23, System payroll directly supported 14,640 faculty, staff and student workers, providing $526 million in total compensation and benefits.
Beyond its payroll, UMS spent $327.5 million on supplies, services, capital projects and utilities in FY23, with $105 million of that used to pay vendors across 424 Maine towns from Acton to York Harbor. Penobscot County, where UMS invested $42 million into the local economy, led the state’s counties where the System did the most business, followed by Cumberland ($28.7 million), Kennebec ($9.9 million), Androscoggin ($7.5 million) and Aroostook ($5 million).
UMS centralized strategic procurement in 2013 to better steward tuition and taxpayer dollars by leveraging the collective purchasing power of its seven public universities. The System selects suppliers through a competitive procurement process, with contracts generally awarded to the lowest qualified bidder to ensure maximum public benefit.
“When we say the University of Maine System is the largest driver of economic development in the state, we mean it,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “Not only do we prepare Maine’s skilled workforce, support small businesses through our world-class research and innovation activity and serve as one of the state’s largest employers, but through the System’s own purchasing we are keeping money and opportunity in our local communities. It’s an incredible impact and one that is unmatched by any other institution in the state and especially important in rural regions, where our public universities are uniquely vital to economic health and vitality.”
The System’s in-state spending has been driven upwards in recent years by a number of large construction projects that have been awarded to Maine firms. UMS has $1.6 billion in deferred maintenance and imminent infrastructure needs, and has been undertaking projects across the state with a goal of increasing recruitment, retention and energy efficiency while reducing operating costs, fossil fuel usage and overall square footage.
In FY23, UMS invested $143 million in construction activities, with 44 major capital projects completed or underway, many possible thanks to private and corporate donations or one-time state or federal funds. Sargent Corp., Bowman Constructors and Sullivan & Merritt Constructors Inc., all headquartered in Penobscot County, topped the list of the Maine suppliers to which the System sent the largest payments.
“The University of Maine System’s increasing investment in buildings and infrastructure has been integral for growth in Maine’s construction industry. In addition to the direct long-term benefits to current and future university students, the approach to these strategic investments has been carefully evaluated to ensure the System remains competitive and that’s essential for our state’s workforce,” said AGC Maine Executive Director Kelly Flagg. “Beyond the direct income to firms employing Maine’s skilled workers, the System’s impact is multiplied by local spending on goods, services, suppliers and materials. There is tremendous pride in the construction industry working on projects at Maine’s public universities as many are alumni themselves.”
Even spending with suppliers not headquartered in the state supported good-paying Maine jobs. For example, UMS paid Consigli Construction and PC Construction a combined $31.6 million in FY23 for both new construction projects and deferred maintenance. Those companies are technically headquartered elsewhere in New England, but have offices in the state and employ many Mainers directly and indirectly for university projects.
“We at Consigli Construction are grateful to be selected by the University of Maine System for such high-quality construction projects across the state. Not only do these public university projects allow us to compensate our committed team members but we are also able to hire our dedicated subcontractors across the state, local material suppliers and the Maine timber industry,” said Matthew Tonello, a University of Maine Civil Engineering graduate and director of operations for Consigli Construction. “Because the university is our go-to for recruiting new employees, we also know these projects will pay long-term dividends for Consigli and our state by providing the modern facilities necessary to attract and educate the future workforce our company and so many other Maine employers depend on.”
UMS grows Maine’s food economy
Through its third-party campus food service provider, Sodexo, UMS additionally invested $1.85 million in local food in FY23, directly supporting 115 Maine growers and producers.
“Our System’s local food commitment is a win-win-win, opening new markets for Maine farmers and producers, providing our students sustainable, high-quality dining options and growing the state’s agriculture economy,” said Chancellor Malloy.
More than one-fifth of all food and beverage purchased in FY23 for consumption at UMS campuses was local.
“Maine Farm Bureau and Maine farmers really appreciate the university buying locally and it’s exciting that so many students are being exposed to healthy, delicious food grown so close to their campuses in our communities,” said Maine Farm Bureau President David Kent. “This level of large institutional investment in our Maine farms ensures they and our rural economy can thrive while also preserving open space access and our environment.”
Sean Smith of W.A. Bean & Sons, a fifth-generation family owned and operated Bangor butcher, agrees.
“To be able to do business with the University of Maine System has been vital to a small family business like ours,” he said. “We are appreciative that Maine’s public universities really value local food and that through their dining services provider, Sodexo, W.A. Bean & Sons is able to serve quality meat and food products to tens of thousands of students and employees through the System and state.”
The System’s economic impact on the state extends well beyond the goods and services it procures from Maine-based businesses, and the jobs it sustains.
Maine’s public universities also attract needed talent to the state — in furtherance of the goals of its own System strategic plan as well as the state’s 10-year economic development strategy, which calls for attracting 75,000 people to the Maine workforce. Last academic year, UMS brought 6,695 students to the state.
Meanwhile, UMS research and development led by UMaine, the state’s only university to achieve the top-tier R1 Carnegie Classification, directly supports hundreds of Maine businesses each year. It is credited with helping heritage industries innovate for the future, including by growing Maine’s wild blueberry production by 500% over the last 50 years.
Contact: Samantha Warren, 207-632-0389, firstname.lastname@example.org
About the University of Maine System
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System (UMS) unites seven Maine’s distinctive public universities, comprising 10 campuses and numerous centers, in the common purpose of providing quality higher education while delivering on its traditional tripartite mission of teaching, research, and public service.
In 2020 UMS became the first and only statewide enterprise of public higher education in the country to transition to a unified accreditation for the system. Much different than a merger or consolidation, unified accreditation is a new operating model for the University of Maine System that removes the primary barrier to inter-institutional collaboration.
A comprehensive public institution of higher education, UMS serves more than 30,000 students annually and is supported by the efforts of more than 2,000 full-time and part-time faculty, more than 3,000 regular full-time and part-time staff, and a complement of part-time temporary (adjunct) faculty.
Reaching more than 500,000 people annually through educational and cultural offerings, the University of Maine System also benefits from more than two-thirds of its alumni population residing within the state; more than 123,000 individuals.
The System consists of seven main campuses: The University of Maine (UMaine), including its regional campus the University of Maine at Machias (UMaine Machias); the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA); the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF); the University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK), the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI); and the University of Southern Maine (USM). The System also includes a UMA campus in Bangor, USM campuses in Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn, the University of Maine School of Law, and the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center.