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GSU students’ return revs economic engine

Local businesses scramble to deliver services

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            With enrollment numbers continuing to climb at Georgia Southern University, local business owners and utility providers are using various means to service the increase in business when students come back to Statesboro.

            "We love it when the students return for fall semester," said John Goodman, manager of the Harvey's Supermarket on Fair Road in Statesboro. "We don't have as much of a drop in our summertime business as we used to have, because it seems like students are beginning to go to school all year round now."

            "However, our business goes up 25 to 30 percent the week prior to fall semester," he said. "As grateful as we are for the student business, we are more grateful for the loyal, local customer base that we have built. We have to make sure that we adjust our staff appropriately when the college students return."

            Goodman said adding additional staff for him isn't difficult, because students who have worked for Harvey's in their hometowns transfer to his store. "It really works out wonderfully well, because they are already trained, and are ready to come to work."

            Other local businesses are using the internet to ease the deluge of student requests.

            Sue Starling is a customer service supervisor with the city of Statesboro's utility division. Starling said two factors have had a major impact on the workload generated by students seeking to hook up water for the apartments and homes that they rent.

            "Three or four years ago, we had over 3000 requests for water hookup in a three week period from the middle of  July to the beginning of August," Starling said. "We had roughly half of that this year."

            That figure would appear to be at odds with projections made by university officials estimating this fall's enrollment to be in excess of 17,000, the most in the school's history.

            Starling said the way apartments are rented and use of the city of Statesboro's website has lessened traffic significantly.

            "A lot of apartments now have all inclusive utilities, so the students just have to rent the apartment and not worry about having any of the utilities connected," she said. However, if someone has to hook up water themselves, all he or she has to do is to go to the city's website and sign up for water.  They can leave a deposit on their credit card and not have to come downtown. We had  ten to 15 percent of our new hookups completed that way this year. It is so easy. We hope that more students will take advantage of it in the future."

            Rick Hutchison, manager of Northland Cable in Statesboro, said his staff is just now beginning to see daylight.

            "Our rush began July 15 peaking around the first of August," Hutchison said. "We have to contract additional installers to come in at this time, because we simply can't get to all of customers in a timely manner if we don't. No one takes a vacation in August."

            Hutchison said signing up for cable over the internet is okay for some, but for others contracting cable face-to-face is best.

            "We probably had eight to ten percent of our student customers sign up over the internet this year," he said. "But there are so many variables involved in the cable TV world now that for most, they just have to come in to work everything out."

            Wachovia Bank in Statesboro has become a favorite of many students and their parents. Wachovia's parking lot was filled to capacity this past Friday as people waited in line to see a customer service representative at the Statesboro branch.  Statesboro branch manager Dionne Patrick said the fall semester rush has a domino effect across local business.

            "Students put their money in the bank and then spend it all over town," she said. "Our business customers see increases in revenue which in turn are deposited back into the bank. It affects everybody."

            Patrick said August is a very important time for the Statesboro branch with everybody working long hours.

            "We have to be fully staffed and ready to stay as long as it takes to service our customers," she said. "Some days can be pretty long."

            Whereas most Statesboro businesses benefit from the student's return, a few benefit more when they leave in the late spring.

            "When we accept U-Hauls from students moving into Statesboro, we don't receive any money for that," Jean Jones said. Jones and her husband, Earl, own a U-Haul rental operation on Northside Drive in Statesboro.

            "When they graduate or leave for the summer and rent a U-Haul from us, that's when we are able to make money," she said. "For us, when they leave, it is better than when they arrive."
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