St. Ambrose University's economic might caught even the school's president off-guard.

In 2012, the school produced business spending of $188 million, according to a 48-page economic impact report unveiled Wednesday, about twice as much as Sister Joan Lescinski thought.

She called that statistic and others in an economic impact study by Strategic Economics Group of Des Moines "happy surprises."

The university also created 1,913 jobs in 2012 and has a payroll of $38 million and generated $73 million in personal income, according to an economic impact study released by the university.

The university commissioned the study in December, looking at how the school's purchases, payrolls and local spending by its employees, students and visitors affects the local economy.

"It is not just direct economic impact but also secondary salaries and how one dollar spent by St. Ambrose ripples through the economy," said Mike Poster, the university's vice president for finance.

The study shows that of that business spending, $117 million was directly related to operations on the school's Davenport campus. Overall business spending is expected to grow to $206 million by 2017.

Expansion on campus proved to be an economic development tool, according to the study, as $15 million per year in new spending was a result of $89 million in construction over the past decade.

Get news headlines sent daily to your inbox

The study also showed the financial might of St. Ambrose students. They contribute $46.5 million in business spending annually, according to the study. Visitors to the school poured $5.9 million into the local economy in 2012.

Moving forward, the study can be used with student recruiting and soliciting alumni donations, Poster said.

"Donors want to know what kind of impact their gift will have," Poster said. He cited the school's industrial and mechanical engineering programs as well as the master of physician assistant studies program that is currently in the accreditation process.

The document can also be an economic development tool, said Tara Barney, president of the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce. In recruiting businesses to locate here, a study like St. Ambrose's can point to students, level of education in the community and strength of higher education in the community.