Blackhawk Technical College has released the findings of an economic-impact survey, just days before Rock and Green county voters officially decide whether to approve its $32 million referendum for a new training center.

The college contributes $85.9 million to the local economy, according to the independent survey by Emsi, a data-collection company focused on labor and education. The college also supports one of every 71 jobs in Rock and Green counties, equivalent to 1,564 jobs.

BTC President Tracy Pierner said officials want to conduct similar studies every five to 10 years. The last survey, done almost 20 years ago in 2001, showed BTC had a local economic impact of $76 million.

Jon Tysse, the executive director for institutional research and effectiveness, recommended the survey when he joined BTC almost four years ago, but the college had other priorities, Pierner said.

Pierner is upfront about the survey’s timing with the Nov. 3 election.

If approved, the $32 million referendum would help pay for a new public safety and transportation training center, which would be used by students as well as police officers, firefighters, first responders and others. Pierner said BTC wanted to ensure it announced the survey results before the election.

“As we’re moving into not only this new potential project but we’re also looking at some other developments. … We thought it was a good time to take a look at what our impact is on the community and start sharing that with our community,” he said, “so they realize what an important piece we are to the economic workforce development in our region.”

Tysse called the survey a standard tool institutions should use to find out how they affect their communities.

“We desperately needed to know how our approach was impacting our district, and so that was really the driver, so that as we do projects and things start to happen we have some baseline information to refer back to,” Tysse said.

The other thing that made the economic-impact survey attractive was that the college received a discount because it agreed to do it at the same time as a referendum project survey.

“It made sense to do those surveys at the same time, and we wanted these results to come out before Nov. 3, too,” Pierner said.

The college paid $10,000 to $12,000 for the impact study, he said.

Pierner said he hopes voters take note of what the survey says before deciding on the referendum. He said the college is a “solid return on investment” because it adds value to the community.

“I’m not surprised at the results,” he said. “We are a huge player in our community, but I don’t think people realize how huge sometimes.”

“We’re just hoping people understand the positive impact we have on the community.”