The University Economic Development Association Annual Summit showcases some of the best current initiatives in university economic development. Several IU colleagues and I recently attended the 2017 summit in Long Beach, California, and I thought it would be worthwhile to share some highlights.
Bill Allen, CEO of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., kicked off the summit with a keynote that outlined Los Angeles County’s economic development priorities. Allen led the development of the county’s first consensus-built strategic plan for economic development, Propel L.A., which was created using a process that included 26 public meetings and engaged more than 1,000 regional stakeholders.
Although Los Angeles County has experienced many economic development successes, particularly with technology companies and venture capital funding, Allen noted that enabling upward social mobility remains a challenge. He cited the book Equity, Growth, and Community: What the Nation Can Learn From America’s Metro Areas for presenting a compelling case for why inequity is bad for regional economic growth, and he identified economic access for the poor in the county as his organization’s top priority.
Another summit keynote presented a unique model of university engagement in regional economic development. The five California State University campuses located in Los Angeles County have developed a cooperative initiative under the name The CSU5. The presidents of California State University; Northridge; and California State University, Long Beach said the campuses use the CSU5 brand to team up to pursue joint opportunities. They meet regularly to align their efforts to more effectively address the economic development goals in Propel L.A.
The presidents identified how the CSU5 were supporting Los Angeles County’s economic development strategy, including:
- Increasing research linkages with local industry.
- Building custom degrees to meet workforce needs.
- Supporting tech and entrepreneurship hubs.
- Building multi-institutional research centers to create areas of shared regional research strength.
These keynotes showcased the critical interrelationships between talent, innovation and place in a regional economy, and how universities can play an important role in advancing initiatives in all three.
The UEDA Summit’s Awards of Excellence finalist presentations are a perennial highlight of the event.
Several finalists presented projects aimed at increasing rural access to university resources. In particular, the University of Georgia’s Archway Partnership and the University of Tennessee’s Asset-based Planning in Rural Tennessee Counties offer interesting parallels to IU Bloomington’s Center for Rural Engagement.
The University of Tennessee’s asset-based planning initiative seeks to combat the lack of optimism and momentum in rural communities after decades of stagnation by focusing on tangible projects that capitalize on existing assets.
The University of Georgia’s Archway Partnership builds deeper ties between the university and communities. The university holds annual communitywide listening sessions to solicit input on community priorities and uses trained facilitators to better engage communities in developing projects to address the top priorities.
Similarly, IU Bloomington’s Center for Rural Engagement will create deeper ties with rural communities and will offer communities a more customized, holistic way to connect with the university.
Another initiative that I watched closely was the University of Nevada, Reno’s Applied Research Institute. With strong support from the state of Nevada, the Nevada Center for Applied Research is helping the university forge stronger ties with industry. Crimson Catalyst readers may be aware that IU, Purdue and NSWC Crane recently collaborated to launch an Applied Research Institute for Indiana, which will advance applied research projects in areas of overlapping interest.
The last Awards of Excellence finalist I want to note is IU East‘s Tim Scales, who was a finalist in the Innovation + Talent category for the Business Opportunities for Self-Starters, or BOSS, program. The program teaches high school students how to create a business plan, and concludes with a final business plan pitch to a group of judges.
At the 2017 UEDA summit, a consistent theme was apparent: Strong regional economic development projects contain a mix of top-level university support, community alignment around a problem and solution, and robust partnership between universities and external organizations. This alignment with communities and partner organizations is at the core of IU’s economic development strategy, and it will remain essential as IU strives to positively impact the lives of Hoosiers throughout the state.