Baylor University Visitors Bring Business to Waco
by Meghan Merchant, student newswriter
More than 3,000 new Baylor University students will travel to Waco this summer for orientation, bringing a steady stream of business for area hotels, restaurants and stores.
Baylor's summer orientation is designed to introduce incoming students and their families to Baylor's distinctive campus culture, while providing opportunities to explore academics and campus life and begin developing important relationships with faculty, staff and students. The university has scheduled 10 two-day orientation sessions that run from June 14-30. A one-day orientation also will be held on Aug. 16.
At any given point during the summer, there will be about 300 incoming freshman and their families at Baylor for the two-day orientation, said Andrew Ginakis, a student worker for New Student Programs. The first orientation session began June 14.
According to research compiled by Dr. Thomas Kelly, director of Baylor's Center for Business and Economic Research, out-of-county students and visitors had an annual economic impact of $340.5 million on McLennan County during the 2005-2006 academic year. Family members and students in town for orientation contribute to that impact each summer.
While students in town for orientation have a full schedule, some take advantage
of the opportunity to explore Waco and its offerings.
Ann Golding and her daughter, Mallory, an incoming freshman from Coppell, estimated they spent about $300 on food and lodging during their time in Waco, along with a $100 "emergency shopping trip" at the trendy Shops of River Square Center in downtown Waco.
Lori Caskey, mother of incoming Shreveport, La., freshman Lauren, also estimated her family spent about $300 on eating-out and hotel expenses during their visit. They used some of their free time to "scout the practical places Lauren would need to find, like the grocery store and bank."
Most families spend two nights in Waco during their orientation visit. Wayne Smotherman, manager of Best Western Old Main Lodge across the street from Baylor's North Russell Hall, said his hotel is completely booked during Baylor special events, such as Parents' Weekend and Homecoming. However, the summer is the hotel's busiest time of year, he said.
"Baylor has helped us out a lot," he said.
Eric Hauzenrader, general manager of the Clarion Inn on Fourth Street, estimated about 30 percent of the inn's business comes from guests related to Baylor in some way. He noted the inn operates at capacity during Homecoming and Parents' Weekend, but also does well in August, along with the entire city, around the time returning and new students come back to Waco for the school year. Hauzenrader hopes the Clarion's recent renovations will attract more Baylor visitors to the hotel.
Beyond orientation, Kelly's report estimated the combined economic impact of Baylor, including students, visitors, operation and capital spending, during the 2005-06 on McLennan County was around $1.2 billion.
Based on the average cost of living in Central Texas, Kelly said that out-of-county Baylor students will spend an average of $10,523 in the academic year 2005-06 for housing, food, books and supplies, personal expenses and travel expenses. The projected annual contribution of nearly 12,000 out-of county students on local income from their personal living expenses is estimated to be $124.2 million in 2005-06.
The Center for Business and Economic Research provides economic information concerning the operation and performance of the regional economy and its relationship to the state, national and global economies.