Study finds Jefferson Lab has a national economic impact

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“We returned more than three times what taxpayers invested,” says Stuart Henderson.
Photo by Mark Rhodes

Stuart Henderson was surprised by a recent study’s findings on the wide-ranging impact of the Jefferson Lab in Newport News.

“We returned more than three times what taxpayers invested,” says Henderson,  who is director of the federally funded laboratory, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. “To see this come back so strong was very exciting for us and confirmed what we thought all the time — that there is a return on investment in the basic sciences; that science is good for driving the economy.”

The study, commissioned by the Southeastern Universities Research Association, found that the laboratory generated $556.9 million in national economic impact last year, providing income for 3,448 workers. “We provided 2,240 jobs in Virginia. We are a lab of 700 people so that’s phenomenal,” Henderson says.

In Hampton Roads alone, the lab, whose official name is the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility,  was credited with generating $269.1 million in economic impact, resulting in 2,015 full- and part-time jobs.

“The lab is a center for innovation, drawing highly skilled workers to Newport News,” says Florence Kingston, the city’s director of economic development. “It spurs the development of unique technologies, techniques and expertise that leads to the commercialization of products benefiting society.”

The lab’s economic benefits are traced to its direct spending, the commercialization of lab-developed technologies and research programs benefiting universities and schools.
Because it is a national facility, “more than 1,600 scientists from around the world come to the lab. Most are from universities,” Henderson says. “One-third of all nuclear physicists produced annually in the U.S. did their research at Jefferson Lab.”

The lab will have even more of an economic impact if the Department of Energy chooses it for the construction of a $1.5 billion electron-ion collider.  Jefferson Lab and Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York are the only sites being considered. No date has been set for a decision.
“The benefits to the region that lands such a facility have a scientific lifetime measured in decades,” Henderson says.

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