GREENCASTLE -- Last week, local Greencastle restaurants began getting a few extra bucks from DePauw University students. A new program offered by the university allows students to use a portion of their meal money in several Greencastle restaurants as well as cards with prepaid money on them.
Ten local merchants are signed up to let students use Tiger Express and DPU Plus dollars. They are ABC Gyros, Almost Home, Cavern Club, Chief's, Domino's, Los Martinez, Mama Nunz, Marvin's, Pizza King and Treasures on the Square.
Other local restaurants may come on board as well.
"When the program gets up and running, there may be some things that need to be tweaked. But it's a great start to revitalize the area around campus. We, are most appreciative of the initiative that Sue Murray and Brian Casey took to make it happen," said Steve Gaebes, owner of Chief's.
Greencastle Mayor Sue Murray told the Banner Graphic the cards had been a topic of conversation for several years but had not moved forward.
"Last year when Dr. Casey and I first started meeting we talked about what kinds of things could make a difference for both communities, we agreed swipe cards could make a difference," explained Murray.
A first proposal asking for a 30 percent return was not feasible.
"Dr. Casey and Brad Kelsheimer, (vice president for finance and administration at DePauw) talked about it again and what other options could be there and make it work. Brad worked with DePauw folks and came back with the new proposal," said Murray.
The 10 restaurants will give 9.5 percent of the final bill to DePauw and also pay a software fee that will allow their credit card machines to accept Tiger Cards.
Payments will be accepted from one of two sources. These are the Tiger Express accounts, which are separate from the meal plan for students and from the DPU Plus points that includes each student being able to use $75 per semester from their meal plans at local restaurants.
Part of DePauw's percentage will be paid directly to a third party, Off-Campus Advantage, that will monitor all the transactions.
Money on the cards can be used for food, beverages and tips, but no alcohol or tobacco products can be purchased.
Restaurants could potentially earn $150,000 if students spend their $150 at the local establishments. Businesses hope this number will increase as students add money to their accounts to be spent at their restaurant.
DPU is encouraging parents to put more money on the Tiger Cards to be used at the local restaurants. They are working on setting up a Web site that will allow family members to put money on the card via the Internet. They hope to have the site running in the next couple of months.
An added plus, says Murray, is that right now starting the program in the down area will help promote sustainability and walkability.
"Keeping it in the downtown area helps sustainability and walkability. Students don't have to get in their car and drive. They can walk to many of the restaurants because they are all near the campus," said Murray.
"DPU will better understand the food available and will utilize the swipe cards in those places. Students will be more aware and more engaged in the community as a result. It gives students another option. Gives them some nice places to go, sit down and have a meal. It's a nice change of pace from Sodexho," added Murray.
An interesting independent report on the economic impact of DePauw University on Central Indiana completed by EconImpact in March 2005 shows that the university adds $176 million annually to the income flow in central Indiana.
Money spent for food, clothing, books, travel, entertainment, housing, furniture, car repairs, banking and other items by students, faculty, staff and visitors flows in to the tune of $67 million in both direct and indirect spending.
Income earned by the approximately 1,700 persons who work for the university is $49 million.
Another $59 million is earned and spent by the more than 3,200 DePauw alumni in the area.
Additionally, $0.5 million comes in benefits to the governments of the City of Greencastle and to Putnam County.
These numbers do not reflect contributions made by the university to programs such as Peoples Pathways, the Greencastle Fire Department, neighborhood improvements, Family Youth and Community Development and the Alpha program for high school students.
The university gave $80,000 to fund a share of Phase Four of People Pathways. It donated almost $109,000 to the Fire Department and have paid almost $200,000 for neighborhood improvements such as sidewalks, storm sewers and curbs.
DePauw gave the FYCD their building located at 605 Crown St. More than 280 local high school students took college level classes for credit at DePauw at 94 percent discounted tuition. This is a benefit to the community totaling $709,000. All these numbers have increased since the report was completed four years ago.
This report can be accessed at EconImpact@Juno.com
"We don't know how well it will work, but we do believe this new program offers students more dining options and brings new customers to some of our great restaurants," said Murray.
"It is absolutely a start in the right direction between town and gown," added Gaebes.