BGSU: Economic development through regional partnershipsWritten by Mike Ogawa | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Working with the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau of the city of Rossford, students at Bowling Green State University are developing a marketing strategy to help attract new retail and commercial businesses to the city. Their work will highlight the many advantages of the area for potential developers and will help match future retailers to the best markets within the city. This project is just one example of the way BGSU is positioning itself to become a more active partner in the economic development of Northwest Ohio.
Economic development activities are those that better the lives of people by providing them with access to more or better jobs. Universities are often involved in such activities by providing job-specific training opportunities, commercializing high-tech intellectual property created by their faculty and facilitating the creation of new start-up companies in the region. These activities are in addition to more traditional educational programs such as co-ops and internships, which provide students with valuable work experiences and help them to become Ohio’s next generation of workers and business people.
BGSU is now adding to this model of university-based economic development by working to create strong, service-based partnerships between the university and existing businesses and organizations in the region. The goal of these partnerships is to position the assets of the university in ways that can be easily accessed by local businesses and enable BGSU to be regarded as a valuable resource for business owners in their drive to become more competitive and successful. In addition, the formation of these partnerships will give BGSU students the opportunity to work alongside faculty in helping to solve some of the real-world challenges now facing the region.
The newly created Division of Research and Economic Development at BGSU will serve as the active link between the strengths of the university and the needs of regional businesses and organizations. Members of the BGSU economic development team are in conversation with economic development professionals in the surrounding counties to learn more about the needs and challenges confronting their areas. This new division is also creating initiatives to challenge and involve members of the campus community in finding ways of using their skills and assets to best address those needs. Toward this end, BGSU is piloting a program that is making new grant money available to faculty members for developing projects designed to help advance the economic well-being of Ohioans by providing them with access to their expertise and related resources of the university. These partnerships will provide area businesses with a competitive edge and help them become more successful.
Other emerging economic development programs at BGSU include the creation of a new type of business incubator that will be incorporated directly into the academic curriculum. This academic incubator will allow both faculty and students to apply their knowledge and effort in helping local entrepreneurs establish and grow their new businesses. This program will be a valuable addition to our emphasis on providing students with new “real world” learning experiences such as co-ops, internships; and the creation of new entrepreneurial activities themselves. From these experiences, today’s BGSU students will become the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
Efforts at community-based economic development are not new to our campus. BGSU’s Center for Regional Development (CRD) helps foster job retention and growth in Northwest Ohio by supplying government and local businesses with important research and technical assistance in helping to design and implement pragmatic solutions to a wide variety of economic challenges. With research partners around the world, the CRD is providing world-class ideas and moving them from campus to the community. The BGSU Dallas-Hamilton Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership promotes “entrepreneurial thinking and doing” and helps foster the cultivation of innovative businesses. Through this dynamic center, business and entrepreneurial communities have been connected to BGSU faculty and students. In addition, our Continuing and Extended Education and nontraditional student learning programs have a proven record of success in educating and retooling adult learners to meet the increasing demands of the modern workplace.
Studies have shown that BGSU now makes a $700 million impact on the local economy. However, this is a passive impact caused largely by the jobs we offer and the students we teach. The new positioning of university assets to meet the needs of the area will bring a purposeful impact to the regional economy and will make BGSU a more active partner in the economic growth of Northwest Ohio.
Mike Ogawa is vice president of research and economic development at Bowling Green State University.