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IU Kokomo an agent for change - Kokomo Perspective: News

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IU Kokomo an agent for change

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Study reveals large economic impact, plenty of potential to partner with community Story


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Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012 9:36 am By Pat Munsey

How much does Indiana University Kokomo mean to the local economy? About $42 million and 500 jobs a year. That’s a lot of economic clout. Those numbers get larger when the impact is spread across the state. Last week, the university held a forum to brainstorm ways to harness its power to create even more benefit to the region it serves. At the center of the session was a study -- “An Economic Engine for North Central Indiana -- authored by TrippUmbach, which quantified IU Kokomo’s value in terms of jobs, economic impact, tax revenue, charitable donations, and volunteerism. The university surprised the researchers with its focus on regionalization and outreach to the economic development community.

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IUK study

“So many universities are only beginning to see their role in regional transformation,” said Paul Umbach, president of TrippUmbach. “Only a few look at higher education as part of an economic ‘triple helix,’ as Chancellor Michael Harris mentioned. IU Kokomo is way out in front. You are way ahead of the curve in how education is seen.”

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Harris’ “triple helix” analogy combines the influence of government, business, and higher education in a cooperative effort to train workers for a global economy, which provides a manpower resource that is vital for business attraction and economic growth. It is this strategy that has led IU Kokomo to year-overyear enrollment growth, expansion of degree programs and athletics, and a greater role in shaping the community. Armed with this information and the results of the study, Umbach opened the floor to an active discussion about how to transition IU Kokomo from being an important part of the economy to fitting into a vision for greater development. The roughly 60 local leaders in attendance had plenty to offer. It started with setting priorities for the next 10 years.[4/12/2014 7:32:09 AM]

IU Kokomo an agent for change - Kokomo Perspective: News

The crowd suggested that the local economy should be more diversified, and that IU Kokomo’s student population should be nurtured to grow. As Kokomo Common Councilman Tom Miklik pointed out, only 19 percent of Howard County residents hold a college degree -- a number sorely in need of improvement. “As you change the education level of the people, and foster and grow internally, the economic water level raises for everybody,” said Miklik. Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight added that IU Kokomo can be marketed to help make the community an attractive place for families to live, learn, and work. From there, the discussion turned to identifying opportunities for partnership with the university. It was suggested that traditional geographic boundaries need to be dismissed in order for the region to truly thrive. Jan Hendrix, director of the Inventrek Technology Park, suggested that a technology transfer between IU Kokomo and the private sector would help foster collaborations. Bill Stephan, IU vice president for engagement, agreed. “We have been very focused on technology commercialization -- ways in which the university can identify intellectual property that has market potential,” said Stephan. “Historically, our regional campuses have not been involved in that process. Not surprisingly, IU Kokomo has had two invention disclosures in the past year. I think this is a reflection of your campus’ focus on exploiting talent and resources here for the benefit of the broader community.” Most importantly, the university and the community needs to be willing to take risks, according to Mike Stegall, president of Community First Bank. “When you look at communities and regions that really excel, there is a certain amount of risk appetite that they have,” said Stegall. “We took a risk five years ago and put together the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance. Look at Indianapolis building a dome before it had a football team. “I’m not talking about crazy risks, but we have had governments that were content to stay within the status quo. There wasn’t a need to diversify because the auto industry was so good for so long. We rode that horse until it got tired. I think risk-taking is a very key element for economic development success.” Harris encapsulated IU Kokomo’s commitment to the community through its three-year strategic plan. “We are committed to our three themes – Academic Excellence and Student Success, Building Relationships and Making Friends, and Transforming the Region,” Chancellor Harris said. “We educate world-class graduates, and 80 percent of our graduates stay in the region. As higher education evolves, we see our role as ‘stewards of place,’ which means that we believe we have a public responsibility to serve as a catalyst and place to convene people and bring them together to facilitate economic growth and quality of life.”


Posted in News on Thursday, May 31, 2012 9:36 am.

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