As Bemidji State University has celebrated its 100th birthday over the past 17 months, it is only fitting that we also recognize and celebrate the impact BSU, Northwest Technical College and the Bemidji community have on one another.
Our inseparable relationship began on a raucous night in 1913, when the citizens of Bemidji learned they had won the state’s sixth Normal School. The scene that night must have been incredible to see. Fire whistles blew long into the night, automobiles paraded through streets lined with celebrating citizens, and as the Bemidji Pioneer reported, “all in all the town presented one of the wildest scenes ever known in its history."
In the century that has passed since that celebratory night, Bemidji has grown from a small logging town of about 5,000 people into a bustling regional center that provides services for a population of more than 100,000. Bemidji is home to some of northern Minnesota’s best health care, modern telecommunications services, bustling retail and dining sectors, a thriving arts community, a regional events center, nearly unlimited outdoor recreation activities and a tourism trade that draws visitors from all over the world.
As the community has blossomed, the university has blossomed as well. We’ve grown from our roots as a Normal School of a dozen faculty and less than 200 students into a comprehensive regional university. And we’ve become recognized as one of the finest public institutions in the Midwest region by renowned organizations such as U.S. News & World Report.
Our impact on the city of Bemidji is easy to identify. Our 5,000 students and more than 550 employees provide significant benefits to the city’s economy, and our presence means the citizens of Bemidji have access to an affordable, world-class education right in their own back yards.
An economic impact study commissioned in 2018 by Minnesota State clearly illustrates the role BSU and NTC play as regional leaders: the study credited the institutions with the creation and support of more than 2,700 jobs and with the generation of more than $18 million in state and local tax revenues each year.
In addition to this measurable economic impact, our students and employees also put forth tremendous efforts to be leaders and role models in the community. Our staff and students provide more than $600,000 in charitable contributions and nearly a $2 million value in volunteer time in Bemidji each year. Our students are involved in partnerships with local elementary schools and participate in camps and clinics. Led by some of the finest faculty in the world, we provide support to local businesses and industry through internships and research partnerships. Our contribution to the arts and our competitiveness in athletics adds to the vitality of our region. We provide leadership and support to a broad spectrum of local and regional initiatives through our Sustainability Office, American Indian Resource Center, Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence, and Center for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.
It is through these activities where Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College generate tremendous impact on the city of Bemidji. While our students come here to study, and our faculty come here to teach, we are fully engaged in the Bemidji community, supporting and leading, to make Bemidji a better place for us all.