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Winter 2001
THE ECONOMIC ENGINE THAT COULD
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Spending by UCLA and its people contributes billions of dollars to the local, regional and state economics.

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By Eric Stone
Photo-Illustration by Terry Miura

Every workday, Yvette Johnson logs 301 miles round-trip commuting to and from her job. Pfizer Inc. last year sold $1.3 billion worth of Viagra worldwide. The leading art and architecture bookstore in Los Angeles, Hennessey & Ingalls, is considering moving from its location on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade to new digs farther east.

These three seemingly disparate facts all have important commonalities: Each generates a significant economic impact, and each has a connection to UCLA.

Take Yvette Johnson, for example. When she goes shopping at Vons in Yucca Valley, the closest supermarket to her home in the high desert near Joshua Tree National Park, she spends money from the paycheck she earns as an administrative analyst at UCLA's Southern Regional Library Facility. The people working at Vons are paid with some of that money and they, in turn, spend it in local restaurants, markets, gas stations and other businesses.

Johnson is just one person, but her spending adds up. Since 1993, when she moved to her current home, she has commuted roughly the equivalent of one-and-a-half round-trips to the moon. A portion of that mileage -- 305,000 miles' worth -- she's driven herself, with the rest by UCLA vanpool. If Johnson averages 20 miles per gallon of gas, and over the years gas has cost an average of $1.20 per gallon, she has spent 18,300 UCLA dollars at the gas station, dollars that then go to workers, taxes and oil-company shareholders.

Now look at Viagra. The huge profits generated by this drug helped to pay the salaries of Pfizer employees and boosted the bank accounts of company stockholders, who then went on to spend their money in ways that generated even more jobs and investment. Some of the work that led to the development of Viagra was done at UCLA, by Nobel Laureate Louis Ignarro (though creating a drug that enhanced men's sexual function was not the primary focus of his groundbreaking research).

How about Hennessey & Ingalls? "At the beginning of every school year," says bookstore manager Robert Barrett, "we do enormous business with [UCLA] students and faculty who need books and textbooks." The campus arts library is among the store's five-best customers. The store is considering moving to Westwood in part because of the Village's proximity to the enormous market that exists at the university.

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