NORFOLK--As Hampton Roads searches to find its economic footing, one of the area's public universities is bringing attention to its economic value in the region.

On Friday, Norfolk State University released an independent study showing the school brought in $171 million to the area in 2012.

'I think it's easy to overlook the fact that institutions like Norfolk State are economic engines in their own right,' said Jack Hornbeck, director of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

Norfolk State University received roughly $130 million from taxpayers in 2012.

NSU's president says that money means green and gold for the Hampton Roads economy.

'When people ask what Norfolk State University brings to the Hampton Roads region, here's the return on investment, here's the value added we bring,' said Dr. Tony Atwater.

Economists with Maryland-based Jack Faucett Associates say the state's investment turned a profit of more than $40 million for the region.

'We learned that the expenditures at the university of about $130 million translated into about $171 million added into the regional economy,' explained Mike Lawrence, the economist leading the study.

According to the report, the school's 7,000 students pumped $32 million into Hampton Roads, spending money on everything from transportation to books.

'They're spending that money on housing, on food, on education, on everything that a household spends money on and it's being spent in the Tidewater area,' said Lawrence.

Dr. Atwater commissioned the study six months ago. A similar study was conducted in 2004.

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